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The day before departure and dithering is the order of the day with little piles of possible packing scattered around my room awaiting adjudication. The Tumi bag doesn’t look a day older than two, \240though I’ve dragged it around with me for at least ten years: that’s at least twelve months of Indian monsoons plus NYC and many trips to Europe.

In Cambridge serious sunshine has stopped leaving me well tanned and eager to turnup the heat. Delhi weather seems to be damp, occasionally electrically exuberant, but always somewhere between warm and hot. Bliss ahead...

Terminal 5, Wallis Rd, Longford, Hounslow TW6 2GA, UK

The train from Cambridge was heaving but, as I was travelling alone, I managed to get a seat. The platform on the Piccadilly Line was invisible under quantities of people; retreating, I took a left and went north one stop thus securing a seat.

In the peaceful part of the lounge with a heap of glossies and a large espresso having decided there’ll be no pudding wine today.

There’s \240a great view of departures and arrivals - can understand why people aren’t keen on living under the flight path.

Looking grim, though not feeling anything other than happy in an old sort of way...

...and off (it’s 01:30 in Delhi).

The Imperial New Delhi

I slept and feel slightly refreshed. I had a port last evening and it was almost the last thing I remember. Delicious. When I come to the time to slip noiselessly into oblivion, I shall do it with port as old as I am at the time. That will make a hole in my assets.

Arrived and was hit in the face by a wave of heat every bit powerful enough to justify the word scorcher. Taxi, of sorts, to Imperial. I was approached by several taxi drivers offering the trip for Rs1500 - the Pre-Paid office charged Rs400. My SIM card will be activated this evening at 19:00 and cost a startling Rs1250, I paid for convenience.

Above: the Dandi march of 1931 - Gandhi leading the people...

Very nice set of rooms plus verdant view.

I will like it here.

Walls of orchids and scattering of Art Deco bits, lifts, lighting, my bath tub - couldn’t be bettered. The staff is friendly, someone has told them to smile and make eye contact.

Been out walking and seen an entirely different side of Delhi, a city where litter becomes a commodity. Visited my Paharganj pharmacist...

Wandered freely with my headphones blocking out most of the city noise. I was especially keen to avoid the chancers who want to clean out your ears with a bit of cotton wool fastened to a needle, the student whose ‘uncle’ has a genuine Indian culture shop ‘just over here’ and the man with an armful of huge laminated maps of the world. It occurs to me that a map of Delhi would be a more immediately useful map, if one had to buy one.

Connaught Place, with its central grassed area, is a joy, a tiny green lung at the centre of New Delhi, with a mahoosive Indian flag.

So send me your thumb print and your future will arrive by return. I wonder which thumb one uses?

Really? Do they know?

Saravana Bhavan, across the road, gave me a great Spicy Chettinad Masala Dosa this evening with three chutneys, samba, S Indian filter coffee, gulag jamun and basundi. \240The crisps were my take-away because I wanted their brown carrier bag (and the crisps).

My laundry was done v swiftly; it would have taken me several goes to get the wrapping so neatly correct. I don’t like to disturb it; it does seem like a lot of trouble to go to for a shirt, pair of trousers, pants and a vest...

My body clock appears to be in fine fettle; I awoke this morning at 04:45, only fifteen minutes off my UK average.

Time for bed-tea and a slow slipping into the day. Will have to rigorously avoid picking up my Kindle if I intend hitting breakfast before 09:00: time melts when reading John le Carré (The Little Drummer Girl).

Breakfasted on Bircher muesli loads of fruit, masala omelette and large espresso. Perfect and debilitatingly filling.

Wandered around, got lost and emerged near the pool. Newspaper time now...

The back door is every bit as impressive as the front porte-cochère. The corridors are huge and remarkably similar so I spend ages finding my rooms. The staff are schooled in patience.

Collapsed by the pool with occasional sunshine between intensely humid sessions. Rather wonderful. Pool boy brought towels, chilled water, sun cream and a flag (incase I’m drowning?) for self-waved service. I have a double sun bed with all my p/cards, papers, diary etc scattered around. Ignored. Listened to Liszt and Childish Gambini at full whack. If Eden was like this then Adam ought to have signed up to a lifelong vow of chastity.

There is a very strong possibility of a monsoonal downpour, I am tempted, were it not for the lightening, to stay out in it.

Off to the spa which, down the spiral staircase, beneath this glass pavilion, is a vast maze of steam rooms, saunas, massage suites, sit out and drink mint tea sort of places. Quite the best massage I’ve ever had.

Such sweets. Haven’t seen printing like this for generations. If I suggest that Warhol had a hand (squeegee) in it I don’t suppose anyone would be at all surprised. I’m not of course, ( the Warhol Trust/Foundation/Whatever is famously litigious).

Wandered through a night market with Mayank (Delhi Walla) hoping to eat at Kwality only to find it all locked up for ‘renovations’. Looked pretty permanent to us.

Breakfast defeated me this morning: I ate way too much and am now surrounded by newspapers on my bed alternately reading and drowsing. I’m not is so lovely here. The corridors are fascinating, full of lithographs, paintings and mismatched furniture. I would love one of the runners for our hall at home (maybe cutdown slightly)

Even though unflattering I feel that my post-massage, oil-slicked, on photo-shopped photograph ought to be in so...

I realised at 12:30 that I would have to make a big effort to escape the Imperial otherwise I’d see nothing but my rooms and the swimming pool; spent the morning lounging around the latter with headphones and only the occasional visitor.

My Delhi metro card worked from last year, indeed it had arsenal 419 on it, enough to last for a couple more years.

Chandni Chowk and Paratha Gully for cauliflower Paraguay’s and various delicious accompaniments - a minty/coriander mix/a sweet banana garlic mix/ a gun powder mix and a heap of vegetable stew (probably for another name).

After this I needed something sweet so hit Haldiram’s and bought an Indrani Cup, mainly because of the terracotta container it came in. I detected saffron, almond and an interlude reduced cream/milk, boiled to buggery and creamy with some solids in it. Delicious and sweet, very sweet.

To Connaught Place where I attempted, once more, to buy a cheap, garish shirt. The queue was lengthy and I mobile so I dumped the shirt with a lot of humph-ing. Could harldly have been more horribly English.

My reward for being impatient was my cashmere scarf, a sort of electric blue and v v soft, long and wide yet folds into a tiny shape.

My day has probably finished, I’m well behind on several of my self-imposed tasks thus slightly anxious.

Such a sunny day it would be a waste not to sit by the pool. It’s the main advantage of having been here many times, not having to be a frantic tourist.

Breakfast has collapsed me so even the pool will have to wait at least a hour.

Sorted myself out more or less and am heading off to discover new things. Possibly. The pool was heaven and only the prospect of second degree sun burn persuaded me from it further.

I wrote cards, drank tea wrapped in my new scarf and wearing sodden bathers - the a/c is fierce but I am lazy.

I walked to a step well (Ugrasen Ki Baoli), more or less in the centre of Delhi, it was far busier than last time I was here. It looks to have been cleaned out, generally spruced up. Mostly there were couples taking photographs of themselves with the steps as backdrop.

Lots of Metro trips later I took a sentimental trip down Pahargang. There has been little change. The fruit market was full of mangoes, bananas and a fruit from the jungle - jamun (the deep purple ones). Many years ago I over ate/overdosed the latter and finished up with a mouth full of ulcers. Most painful...

Phew, awoke early so more or less back into the rhythm of a productive day, at least I read the newspapers and went down to breakfast by 07:00. There were only a few early risers so super-attentive staff. Breakfast is my largest meal of the day by far, I’ll counter balance it with a visit to the swimming pool.

A whole street is devoted to drying washing. No pegs are used, there are two ropes twisted together and the sheets/towels/whatever are suspended between the twists. It works.

It occurs to me that the grass here is billiard-table green despite the heat. I suppose that the monsoon, of which I’ve seen very little, contributes to this.

I’ve just eaten at Saravana Bhavan, medhu vadai, samba, coconut chutney, \240 \240 a litre of v cold water, extra papad, basundi and S Indian coffee - about £3 worth of heaven, not photographed as I’d made ugly holes in it, driven by hunger and heat.

Sadly it’s packing and leaving day today. I really want to just lounge around reading newspapers, but then I’ll get all flustered towards the departure time so, despite being grossly full of breakfast, I will soldier on...

It’s likely that I won’t be able to post until I get WiFi at my hotel in Khajuraho tomorrow.


A change of plan - the sky is a shade of darkest grey, I am \240ready for my first major monsoon episode of this year. Fun. Always an enjoyable sight as long as it’s viewed from behind glass.

newspaper headline to ponder on...


Moved on...

am now in the depths of countryside, not my natural habitat but the temples here, Khaurajo, are superb. It was an uneventful train journey and my only one in a/c2 - slightly too public, curtains not doors. Nevertheless the young people around me were very helpful, we talked until sleep overcame us. One of the girls was wonderfully assertive and managed to get an engineer to work on the noisy a/c.

The waiting room, the Upper Class waiting room, was anything but and was stuffed to overflowing. I watched an episode of the terrific Sacred Games and then read my way through to departure.

Not sure that the language police would find this acceptable; I wouldn’t be able to use the word coolie. As for ‘sitting unreasonably’, that would probably apply to two thirds of the people in the waiting room and in the station. My coach was a good five minute walk through a scrum of people trying to get onto the train and men wheeling mountainous parcels down the platform. It’s always hit or miss as to which end of the twenty coach long train you are in.

...but the sheer relief of settling down with Kindle and a packet of digestive biscuits cannot be overestimated.

Then the engineer arrived...

Wandered around this relatively small place, though noticed how much larger it is now than when I was last here.

Noodles, lime soda and back here to read and drink litres of water.

I bought the sweets in the interest of research and because of the box. They were very sweet indeed.

I am just. Enough off grid here in Khajurah to make uploading difficult to impossible, depending upon the time of day.

I have managed to work the map bit - worth looking at if you want to know where I am.

V large bed, good cotton sheets and room to spread out. The planters outside each room look odd in the photograph but are a charming touch in real life - an anthology of houseplants.

My favourite bit of this hotel is the exuberant use of white marble, especially the up the stairways. My room is functional, perfectly adequate as I seldom move much further than the half of the bed closest to the door, the other half usually piled high with stuff I might possibly need, but seldom do (especially biscuit crumbs).

...I felt the urge to steal these

Wandered, very slowly and sweatily, this morning. Had an Ayurvedic massage and was slightly ,ore invigorated on my way back; the masseur told me that I would sleep very well this evening, didn’t like to mention that I always sleep well. I found him by asking a pharmacist. It all happened swiftly. He, Multan, arrived and drove me off on his motorcycle. To say that I was slightly alarmed is an understatement, I never feel v safe on two wheels at speed. The room was in the seediest hotel/hostel ever, but the massage was perfectly proper, authentic indeed, and effective, my back twinges stopped hurting. An error, I made no mention of cost before action, a big mistake in India (probably anywhere), no problem as it was Rs 800/£8.90 - bargain.

Dal and garlic naan for lunch - gentle and, I’ve discovered, the smallest meal I am able to order, everything else is way too much for me to manage.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen Stay Out in the Midday I was the only person at the pool. I liquefied twice and, after maybe forty minutes, gave up retreating to the a/c and my bed.

I suppose that this is fodder for their cow. Whatever, there were two women with these huge green Ascot hats walking purposefully through town.

This huge tree is at the central point of Jhajuraho and has distinctly animist implications - little offerings, broken idols, pots etc. - along with a dash of Hindu.

Dainty zebu cattle wander freely. This one has sensibly taken up residence in a patch of shade against the searing sun. It’s the entrance to a café, I was mildly interested to see which won, religion or commerce but it was far too hot to hang about.

Lakshmana Temple , completed in AD 954. Terrific orgiastic carvings. The whole village of temples protected by its isolation, clearly the post 900 AD warlords felt pretty much the same as I do vis-à-vis the countyside - gallop through it until you hit the next city.

I’ve had loads of these shavings, 20 pence and that delightful feeling one gets when a sharp razor meets flesh.

It took about half an hour, sitting in the lobby, to upload this entry. I was more patient than usual.

Clear skies this morning after an overnight deluge. Temples today...after breakfast and newspapers. My favourite or most useful headlines are stuck in the back of my journal. Some make grim reading.

Blue badge parking is a lot jollier here...and the money a lot less slimy.

Post luncheon exhaustion as I sit in the lobby and wish for WiFi.

I spent at least three hours with the Western group of temples, perhaps the best preserved of them all and lots of them. The accumulative impression is one of curious modernity, as though they had dropped from some future time rather than pre 900 AD. Something to do with the shapes, more to do with the crisp cutting of the stones that suggests machinery.

If you have little interest in architecture, more especially architecture twinned with pornography, skip the next dozen or so photographs...

Jagadambi Temple, now dedicated to Parvati

Beautifully symmetrical low-relief carving at the entrance to most of these temples.

He was working on preservation, jig-sawing odd pieces of carving into the renovated platforms. It ought to look strange, but succeeds in looking like a \240charmingly odd stone patchwork.

Kandariya Mahadeva Temple 1025-1050

This tree, growing over rocks in the Western Temple compound, attracted my attention the last time I was here. Beautiful.

The cliché cow, except it’s a bull, in the middle of the not too busy road. These are dainty creatures, up to my shoulder, if that.

Nandi - a very big one

I’m off on a twenty one hour train journey (assuming that it’s on time) tomorrow, so no entries until the day after I guess.

Interesting that places that sell alcohol, especially the mega seedy places, are invariably called English Wine Shops, even though wine is hardly their speciality.


I had everything sorted out, case packed, early-ish bedtime and breakfast on time, then India happened. Went to pay my bill, fortunately in good time, and the card machine wouldn’t work. I had the £100 necessary but then I would have been travelling for 21 hours without any money. Not on. I had to fast-walk into the village and find an ATM. Hard to imagine this ever happening in UK but the only ATM switched on at 08:45 involved a walk through the Gents Urinal. I wondered if I was heading for a mugging at one point.

Got the money paid and the. Was driven at a ludicrously dangerous speed to the station where I very nearly go on the wrong train - a porter alerted me to this using gestures. Phew. All is well: I am in the coupé (alone), the two bedder at the end of the A/C 1 coach, and the very best of the best.

The train is many, many carriages long; I timed my walk and it took me over five minutes of swift walking to arrive at the engine end of the train and my compartment. It’s a dull day with khaki sky, so the 21 hour journey may well extend somewhat as rain swamps the rails.

I have a few photographs from yesterday that I would like to preserve on this site. I came across a garden that impressed me with its freshness and order: I would garden if someone would prepare a similar plot for me.

Mahoba Junction and a twenty minute stop which, for most, seems to be a deep-fried breakfast. With flies. I resist since we’ve only been travelling for an hour. The steward asked me if I wanted to order lunch, I refused gently but would be mega pissed/starving if my on-line lunch system lets me down.

Not sure what the green sauce is in the plastic jar but it’s drizzled generously over the samosas and bhajis and soaks into yesterday’s newspaper they’re served in.

Swathed in cashmere, covered with corrugated skin, that’s how I travel...

It looks as though I’m getting bored but I’m not. Nevertheless I will post a moving picture of a train going past. Be warned it lasts for 38 seconds, not Warhol exactly, but heading in that direction. Incidentally this shot represents approximately a fifth of the whole train, which is why I panic slightly when trying to match my ticket with the correct carriage almost every time I have a train journey. Get the wrong end and you are a minimum of eight minutes from your destination, fifteen minutes if the platform is full of squatters, waiters, food sellers, coolies with several cases balanced on their heads and piles of unidentifiable boxes. Makes school obstacle course races look like the Sun King’s progress through his court.

At the end of each long carriage there are two lavatories, a Western one on the lefy and an Indian one on the left. They are so labelled. Invariably the Indian one is the one to use as it is way cleaner than the appalling Western bog (I use the term advisedly).

I have no excuse. I also have no excuse for taking yet another grinning selfie (and posting it), I rely upon your forbearance. I do like the colour of my wrap, is that enough?

Lunch was terrific but far, far too much for me to manage. The red stuff is a paneer mix and the whole caboodle cost me under £3. I gave the delivery man a tip to his evident surprise.

The policeman below was grabbing lunch just as I opened mine.

Mostly on-train signage looking for all the world as though done with a lipstick and a bottle of black Emo nail varnish.

That was a lengthy journey. Arrived several hours late to a cheerful greeting and a terrific room - also an excellent breakfast.

I’m sorting out washing and stuff that needs posting home, at least after I’ve shaved and showered.

The few post midnight pix for the sake of continuity...

I’ll be comfortable here, it’s slightly like staying with a Rajasthan grandmother.

Here’s hoping the cooking is up to it.

Very many of the Rajasthan houses/Haveli are decorated like this.

Doctor café where I had half a pint of ‘special’ lassi - quite delicious, though I get back to the hotel rapidly.

It’s been a slow day so far, a leisurely breakfast chatting with some Danes followed by a massage in a pavilion near the swimming pool. All good stuff and very traditional (Keralan): sitar music, \240way better than the dying whale noises UK spas habitually play, lots of oils and an environment suggesting a mahogany morgue. The masseur was insistent that I rested for an hour before showering the oils off. I’m finding it easy to comply.

During breakfast a man set up outside and played us music throughout on his santur (tap the picture).

The hotel is a typical haveli style place constructed around a series of open courtyards, usually featuring a fountain or some other watery decoration. Ceiling paintings, friezes, randomly placed images and patterns, bright against the white surfaces they’re painted on, delight me.

Tomorrow French film makers descend - quite what we are expected to do I’m not at all sure. Carry on as usual? This place does have a slight hint of the Marigold about it.

The painting of the walls is entirely related to the arrival of the film crew and looks every bit as dangerous as the photograph suggests. Health and Safety - ha!

Just been out for a sweaty walk, eschewing tuk-tuks and taxis. Couldn’t find a functioning atm unfortunately.

Fortunately did find an a/c café with excellent dal.

He/she’s fifty years old and is out for the morning run leaving best friend, who’s a mere thirty years old, behind.

Today will be a gentle day; there are huge gardens opposite the hotel and somewhere therein is a step well, I intend finding it.

My Danish friends leave today, we exchanged addresses and invitations to visit/stay. They will be greatly missed, breakfasts will not be so lengthy or lively.

This is the racing thirty year old (tortoise/turtle?).

Animals have cropped up several times today and, though not especially keen on creatures, I have given them space.

The toy below is a welcome change from the traditional rocking horse I reckon. Of course one would need a servant to pull it along.

The flowers were commanding; although delicate in size they were vivid and attracted my attention from quite a distance.

The white horse was so clean and glossy that his job couldn’t have been more clear: he’s off to a wedding and will be carrying the groom.

The park opposite was far larger than I had expected, so to find the tiny step well in it was nothing short of a miracle. All the signs were in Hindi, there were vast numbers of huge bats flying around and I very nearly gave up. If it hadn’t been for a very persistent ‘I’m a student, where are you from’, person I could easily have retreated. I was not going to be bullied, I clamped my earphones on and focussed on looking where I wanted to go not where he though I ought to go. There it, fairly unimpressively, was...

It’s moving on day today, to be more precise it’s move on evening, altogether more difficult. I’ve opened negotiations with the boss and hope he has an excellent breakfast. The ideal outcome is him offering me my room until 21:00 this evening. I might have to offer a sweetener, if pushed. Rajasthan boutique hotel that I’ve ever found.

It’s the closest thing thing to a Rajasthan boutique hotel that I’ve found; the decoration is exemplary, subtle and certainly not cheap. The curtains in my room are floor to ceiling ivory slub silk, fully lined and with an extra rail of light excluding fabric.

My balcony was a wasted asset, huge and with spectacular views of the palace. I glance at it every now and then but never considered sitting on it.

I was very tempted to visit The Hungry Psycho Lounge for a bite ( of whom?) and a mocktail.

The tortoises are compelling...sorry.

I looked carefully at my room. It isn’t ostentatious but it has got charm. What I imagined, at first, to be wallpaper is infact gold paint painted directly upon the wall. The rugs are old kelims, faded pinks and browns, laid on the white marble floor. There’s a small room between the bedroom and bathroom where there’s an old-fashioned clothes horse, a very useful piece of furniture. I could live in this set of rooms v easily.

Smug doesn’t cover it: I ordered some food and, whilst it was being prepared, went to pay my bill in preparation for my 21:00 departure. I realised that the bill wasn’t quite right so hoofed it upstairs and found that I had another day here in Udaipur. The consequences of not checking would have been ghastly, no room over night and getting on the wrong train. I would undoubtedly have argued my corner with the person in my prebooked berth, etc. etc. As it is the owner is taking me on his evening walk to see three step wells. Whoopee, a vindication of my stupidity of sorts.

This is a step well, well and truly and unusually full of water. It’s close to the palace so it has white marble pavilions.

So, my last day here - again. No plans, but a few ideas.

So, more of the same: I hit the step wells. I’m told that there were eighteen in this small area of Udaipur, that is before the government knocked down/filled in most of them in the face of local opposition. It occurs to me that they may well come into their own again should climate change involve drought. I held back from any adverse criticism remembering the Cambridge political/planning fools who allowed/encouraged the destruction of the area round Red Lion Yard/Petty Cury.

So farewell Hotel Mahendra Prakash, Udaipur...

6, Choura Rasta, Nehru Bazar, Film Colony, Modikhana, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302003, India

My train was standing in Udaipur station already, an hour early. I was expecting, indeed looking forward, to waiting on its busy platforms, collecting bananas, a packet of biscuits, water etc. Confusion reigned for all of five minutes, then the lure of a/c exerted itself and I collapsed in my compartment with music, Kindle and faith that this was indeed the correct train.

Slept well and woke slightly panicked by my extreme ignorance re time of arrival in Jaipur (it was travelling on to Khajuraho via Delhi and I had no wish to travel with it). Managed to find my ‘phone torch and woke the compartment by shining it the wrong way. The two blokes were pleased as they were also getting off, the girl far less so as she buried herself in a grumbling heap of sheets and duvets (the floral, cotton duvets are new since last year).

I’m in the most odd place, a vast, newish hotel built around a big floor to sky atrium. My room is pleasant and v clean, the two men I’ve met so far, helpful (checking me in at 06:15 is a bloody miracle - a free day) and reassuring. What’s peculiar is that I would appear to be the only resident. Trying hard to shake images of Jack Nicholson’s manic grin as I walk down endless lengthy, empty corridors.

There are numerous cinemas here, the Golcha is across the road from my hotel. This evening I’m off to the Raj Mandir, possibly the best cinema in the world. Dhadak is showing: \240I’ll swot up on the plot.

Lots of quaint gun shops I hadn’t noticed before. Any requests?

My breakfast was a lassi from Jaipur’s Lassi Walla followed by vada and coffee at The Indian Coffee House. Both unchanged, delicious and v v cheap.

The Pink City is walled and has several major entry points - here’s Ajmeri/Ajmer Gate at a point when very little traffic was trying to push through it. I can’t stress just how unusual this was.

The man below was bundling up kites, a major sport round here. There are a huge number of firework shops as well, not that close to the gun shops, which I reckon to be a missed opportunity for fruitful exchanges. A rifle crossed with a Roman Candle anybody?

The camel on the wall is an eye-catching invention that laughs in the face of the tagger and his puny ‘art’.

Finally, trousers. Need I say more?

This evening I went to the Raj Mandir. The evening started in the foyer where everyone, but everyone was taking selfies, videos, pictures for others. For twenty minutes the lights are subtle and then, ten minutes before the doors to the auditorium open, they blaze away at full ohms/wattage, whatever they are. It’s gloriously vulgar, irresistibly Bollywood and a total joy. I was in the armchairs on the diamond level. Fierce a/c made me wish I’d taken my cashmere sheet. The movie was a dramatic, romantic, musical set in Udaipur and starring two young scions of two old Bollywood families - the royalty of modern day India. Lots of big brown eyes, batting eyelashes and pale, pale skin. Audience participation was whole-hearted especially from the Ruby and Emerald section below. Telephone calls were fielded throughout, often running to many minutes long conversations. No one was at all self-conscious. No advertisements, just a few public service stills and a statement about women being respected throughout the shooting of this movie. One and a half hours, interval, another one and a half hours. It’s always been like that.

Clue: it’s not fish and chips...

Yesterday when I returned to my rooms I felt slightly dizzy, almost staggering. I checked my diet for the day trying to find something to blame (silly as almost anything could have had a fly slight upon it) \240then sat down and read for an hour. No symptoms, no worse, phew. It was only much later that I realised that I hadn’t bothered/remembered to drink any water at all. An amateur in the tropics, a mistake I’ve never before made, foolish. It’s early morning and I’ve already necked a litre...

On the top and steamy already. I intend circumnavigating the old town today, on foot of course. My lunch is already planned, ditto time of departure.

The hotel lobby, deserted corridors and the odd, most unwelcome, pidgeon. The lift is very slow, has fake grass floor and doesn’t inspire confidence. I use the stairs.

My back aches. Carrying a small bag around with me always results in back ache at some point of the trip. I called into a chemist last evening and, as is usual, had to negotiate down from morphine to tramadol. Of course the pharmacist was absolutely correct when he told me that the former would work swiftly. It helps if you know your drugs when in India.

continued from above: the newspaper contained my laundry - two shirts, three vests, three pants, a handkerchief and a pair of shorts: £1.88. I tip well.

Just love all the many signs with their wriggly writing and subtle visual hints, though I suppose that it could just as easily be a bra shop.

The sweets are essential if you have garlic naan on a daily basis as I do.

Rocky is my new BF. We spent ages dabbing and smelling and sniffing coffee beans to bring our ‘noses’ back to normal. My choices are all based on Oudh but mixed so that the earthier properties of the rotten wood aren’t too prominent.

The pen shop was a joy although I was there for ages whilst blokes spent hours selecting a Rs 50 biro. I eventually spent not much more on fancy coloured pens for the children (Japanese, undoubtedly). Towards the end of my vigil the chai boy came in and gave us all a glass of the most deliciously flavoured chai. His wire glass carrier was a desirable object.

From today’s Times of India...I will try to avoid moaning next year.

I had dal and garlic naan at LMB’s, a famous vegetarian restaurant with a mad interior designer. This place used to be free from garlic and onion but they’ve relaxed the rules to include them during the last few years. Their sweets are justifiably well known. The proportion of tourists to locals/Indian tourists is 1:8, not bad considering the praise that Lonely Planet heaps onto it.

Street food is ever present and where you see queues, especially if there are women and children in them, it’s generally safe to buy. The clay beakers are for lassi and are thrown away after use - I hate doing this but understand that the plastic alternative is a lazy, ecologically unsound, choice.

A locksmith, Jaipur style and colourful bangle haggling.

I’m rushing, so will stop until I have more time...have to find an ATM that works for me as am off early tomorrow with driver and car.

There’s something seedy about WET and DRY waste, perhaps it’s the word waste? And as for the Income Tax Tribunal, hardly inspires confidence and makes me wonder about where my tax goes to in UK. Been wandering again, headphones pumping out either Sufi or ghazals, depending on my current religious bias. The Sufi quawwalis encourage swift walking, the ghazals are far more languorous and therefore I sweat less. There, now you know...

The man in charge of this wonderfully mint smelling drinks stall asked me to try one, but understood when I regretted that I dare not try homemade, ice-based drinks, no matter how thirst quenching. It is a meter of complete coincidence that the entrance to my hotel is right in the middle of the pharmaceutical sellers street. Honestly...

It is a sort of Pink City and I suppose that the Terracotta City doesn’t sound quite as romantic and might get confused with the army...

The Palace of Winds is v v slight at the top, a mere couple of feet wide. The women of the harem were able to watch parades and people through the intricately carved sandstone ‘lace’. Beautiful, really beautiful.

A couple from yesterday - this shop window has an assortment of miniature, porcelain lavatories, bidets and other bathroom fixtures. But why?

The man below was hawking a street food I’ve never come across before - peanuts and aloe were part of its recipe. The queue wasn’t long...

05:00, and time to get up as my driver arrives soon and off we go to Abhaneri and the step well.

Narayan was early so we got off whilst the roads were still empty-ish. It was interesting to watch countryside Rajasthan wake up, deal with cattle, goats etc.

The step well is an architectural wonder with its 3,500 steps and was built in 8th-9th Century A.D. Narayan tells me that it is bad luck to use the same steps you use to descend whilst on the way back up. I was fairly terrified on the well-protected platform around the top, it didn’t occur to me to go down even one flight \240(though a few boys were descending).

I’ll only put a couple of photographs up - you simply had to be there.

This is on the fourth side of the well and is, I believe, where the richer women sat (in the shade) and got their water. Across the road from this well is the 8th-9th Century Harshshat Mata Temple, a bit mangled now but charming, like the well, completely isolated from anything other than the crudest of hamlets.

My early start knocked the stuffing out of me so I more or less collapsed on my return, but not before a late breakfast at The Indian Coffee House.

I’m off at 05:00 tomorrow so packing and an early night. LMB (Laxmi Misthan Bhandar) gave me vegetable pakora, chai, heavily clove flavoured, lime soda and a heap of chopped up fruit - a perfect very early supper. There’s a mustachioed doorman, the quintessential Rajasthan, beturbanned piece of history, who guards the restaurant door; he stands between the café and the shop, both equally revered.

These photographs demonstrate the hierarchy that exists in all working environments I’ve brushed up against, from café to bank and from street vendors to hotels. Here we have two men watching, one man helping and a significantly subordinate man doing all the grunt work. The gradation is usually made clear by what is worn, from the shoeless table clearers, via waiters in white shirt and trousers, to one or two men in suits, all massed on the floor of a single restaurant.


I had a very early start today as the train to Jodhpur, the one I’m now on, left the station at 06:00. I went down to the lobby to find it in darkness watch the odd person asleep on the floor. After a few minutes my impatience took over and I managed, quite accidentally, to turn on all the lights. No movement from the Henry Moore-like lumps on the floor. Slight panic at being locked in started to seep into my consciousness. A man arrived and woke everyone up. The doorman went outside to get a taxi, dismissing four because they wanted more than the Rs 50 he thought a fair price. I intervened and took the next one for Rs 100. \240 It’s always a bit exhausting finding out roughly where the coach you’re in is going to stop, chasing up and down a crowded platform, wheeling suitcase over toes, making sure you have a litre of water, biscuits etc. Chai on board though so all is well. I’m in A/C 3, why I don’t know, but all is well and the people are talkative and charming (and now asleep).

I can’t offer, as an excuse, that it was unexpected, a surprise, but the autorick men managed to piss me off steamily today. An otherwise completely ok price was suggested so I stormed back into the station in a real sulk. Very silly. Of course returning ain’t easy after such a melodramatic exit. I put on my earphones and excluded noise, especially the catcalls from the gods, and tried again. It seemed as though the price had double so I decided that, however inconvenient, I was going to walk. Half way across the road a policeman got me together with an accommodating tuktuk man and I was driven a distance that must surely have disabled me had I attempted to walk it. And all over the equivalent of forty pence. How stupid, how untypical.

The King’s Retreat is exactly what I wanted, an unfussy haveli-style, clean, comfortable, centrally sited hotel. I prefer the ceiling fan but have an a/c option. The shower is in a big wet room and there’s a kettle and stuff. I am relaxed, happy and not a little contrite about my earlier tantrums.

That’s my room. The view from the rooftop café is spectacular, dominated by the Mehrangarh. The skies are bleached out by the sun. I visited Shri Mishrilal Hotel (one thin room) and had the best makhania lassi since that last time I was here (plus two warm, flaky, spicy kachori), my bill was Rs60.

This small (video) step well (though no idea how deep the water is) has been renovated rather badly, destroying the patterns that light makes of the steps by painting the top layer white. The boys are probably in their early twenties and seem to get great pleasure from seeing how dangerous they are able to be with their water bombing.

The large vessels below are water pots and can be seen all over the place, usually with a scoop attached, all for the general good.

The Sadar Market is sublime, I only wish I had a kitchen to take heaps of (often unknown) vegetables/fruits to. I’ve eaten enough local food to know what the very basics are so could guess about what goes into what. The smell of bales of herbs, especially mint, is overwhelming and has me standing still experiencing it fully (all the more vulnerable to touts as a result). The Clock Tower is at the centre of the old town, all directions reference it. I intend starving myself today so that I can have a thali for lunch. It probably still won’t happen as the thalis are huge and constantly replenished - it’s \240insulting if more is not accepted. More destructive of my appetite would be a lassi and I will have to pass by the best of the best several times this morning. Give up on the thali?

Slept well last night with just a gentle ceiling fan buzz and the odd voice echoing through the atrium. I can’t find post cards anywhere, I guess emails have put the kibosh on such fripperies. WiFi is reliable but dreadfully slow, the Telegraph takes many minutes to load.

She tells me that the cobbler’s pose, not an authentic yoga term but good enough, is meant to increase or prolonge their virility. Far to late for anycase I fancy not the sewing of leather.

An early morning view up through the small atrium into the ,as yet, blue sky.

The miracle of walking on water probably doesn’t translate into Hindi very well. Strange how boys will carry on repeating quite simple physical tasks endlessly and without any apparent boredom, e.g. bats and balls, keepy-uppy (?), jumping into stepwells from high places etc.

...and then on to another stepwell, Mahila Bagh ka Jhalra, built by a concubine (she wasn’t named in the translation) of MaharajaVijay Singh in 1780. She must have been one of the very successful ones as it cost many lakh rupees in those days. It was peaceful, empty and the white smudges are v large white fish; there are several turtles as well, though I didn’t see them. The presence of a large blue fishing net suggests protein rather than pets. I had a masseur come to the hotel this afternoon, he was perfect, working with divisiveness of various muscle groups, especiall in my back. Nothing aggressive or too viscous, just what a sympathetic doctor might order (alongside forty Tramadols). It’s excellent to be left along dropping oil and not to have to get back to the hotel. I’ll shower after the hour he suggested. The photograph below isn’t at all flattering but does show my oiled hair and my double cashmere scarf, handwoven and crudely signed by its weaver ( that the not inappropriate pound sign, in white cotton, on the scarf, or stole as they would name it).

Wonderful waking up refreshed, knowing that there’s time to waste, breakfast when it’s called for and somewhere to go that’s open all day.

Today I walked up to the Mehrangarh, my second visit, but still as impressive and huge as I had remembered it being. It looks impregnable: a house, sitting on a castle, sitting on a castle sitting on a vast rock hill. I need to rest before I continue but music first...even though it sounds like Frere Jacques and Three Blind Mice given a Rajasthan twist.

Refreshed myself with a masala dosa and cup of sweet coffee be fore my trail through the corridors and rooms of this gigantic castle.the doors with spike are set at right angles to the road up hill all the better to discourage/damage elephants. The elephants were trained to fight, to throw horse and riders, to trample, to wield swords fastened to their tusks...doors with a good run-up to them and without spikes, would present little challenge to these determined creatures.

The road up to Mehrangarh twists and turns more or less starting where I’m living right up past sheer cliffs and through heavily armoured gates. We now have occasional music from locals - a relatively recent indulgence. I also had to fortify myself with coffee and a masala dosa before hitting the one-way trail through the fort.

Attention was drawn to the vast number of nests - swifts.

The courtyard after courtyard, rooms off them containing beauty and colour and selfie-taking parties of Indians. I move slowly so almost always had the rooms to myself for half of the time. Howdahs and palanquins (18th/19th Century) thick silver plated quite frequently, painted and lacquered and, for female members of the fort, carefully covered though with a tiny spy hole, discretely placed, allowing the women some sight of the outside world.

Toran and Maud: associated with Hindu marriage rituals (early 19th Century).

This was Emperor Akbar’s sword, 16th Century, watered steel blade, gold Damascus work hilt. I’ve seen an identical one in the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay, also belonging to Emperor Akbar. His taste, though clearly murderous, was beyond criticism aesthetically.

The firce weapon on the left is a 17th Century Katar. I have no doubts about the effectiveness of all of these weapons, they aren’t just decorative; that they have survived for so long, and in such good condition, is thanks to their makers not to their disuse.

Beautiful silverware with several uses: the ‘teapot’ (mid 19th Century) was used for wine, or rather more likely, opium water. The jam/wine cups are from Bikaner, again early 19th Century. The chilam is earlier and is the sucking part of the huqqa pipe which might have been used for tobacco but more probably a mixture including opium.

Gold Damascus worked pen box and Betel box, both 19th Century.

The senior male members of the court would have worn variations on this garment (Angrakha) over tight pyjamas. The very finest muslin, gold and silver threads were used. Railways came to the region in 1882 and this meticulously observed ivory model was made to celebrate the innovation. Similar, though slightly less elaborate, models were made for the royal children.

Idol of the Goddess Gangaur, 19th Century.

These are of the Palace of Mirror, used as a bed chamber in 17th and early 18th Century.

Throughout the palace there are these wonderfully perforated marble or sandstone ‘windows’. What air there is, and this high up there is some breeze, has access to the rooms.

The Phool Mahal (Palace of Flowers), 18th Century, was a wonderful surprise at the end of several narrow, dark corridors. Gloriously harmonious, despite the vivid colours and excessive use of gold leaf.

This room, with the Christmas bauble ceiling, was used to entertain the Maharaja’s concubines - more subtle than having a mirror above the bed.

...and that’s that. I abbreviated the tour considerably out of consideration for your patience. Near the end of the tour o came across the palmist’s little room so had my right hand read again. Fascination, and at least eighty percent accurate; at least I’m going to screw the tax people re IHT, he said that I’m going to live until ninety plus.


Alarm set but, surely as a result, I wake up several times from 03:00 onwards. Give up and get up, finish packing properly at 04:30 and turn on, I’m getting used to this, the lobby lights. Eventually someone wakes up to let me out. Amazingly there’s a tuktuk waiting for me, my man came through. The first announcement I heard whilst on the forecourt was that my train is currently running an hour late. It’s fortunate that I enjoy stations. In the First Class waiting room there’s the usual concierge, forms to fill in and then space to find as all the seats have horizontal sleepers on them also much of the floor. The woman shuffles people around and I have space (and a man practically resting on my shoes). It is well cooled in here, so no complaints.

From yesterday: the most tempting basket of very tiny aubergines.

We are slightly over two hours late and, apart from two minute paper cups of chai, nothing. We pulled into one station, Pokran, and after twenty five minutes reversed out and covered the same route in reverse. At one point a betel-nut stained set of teeth, attached to a youngish man, came into our carriage; at this point you ought to know that I’m travelling with two people in their early twenties, the man asked why ‘you two young ones are travelling with this old man’. Glory, glory, how good I felt: hungry, slightly dirty and old, very old. We laughed, I shed a bitter tear. Thanks to them I had a great trip here which was consolidated when there was a man waving a sign with my name on it and accompanied by a huge, white SUV. Bliss, and free.

Arrived and very good first impression, excellent room, big bathroom, good view of the fort, happy reception and a massive coffee fruit and yoghurt in the rooftop café along with two delightful Swedes (nationality not vegetable), bet and lawyer, she much perforated with silver dots, he much tattooed and with ears I could see through. Appearances were deceptive, as they were lovely, thoughtful (except regarding their long-term work prospects) and thoroughly middle class. They are being v brave and are off to the middle of the SAM desert to stay overnight under the stars. I would be far too worried about insects and the possibility of getting sand in my sleeping bag to get any enjoyment out of such an escapade.

Close of day and I was dragged from my book by noises from above...I’ll do this again as they got better and better as the evening progressed.

Early start, but a joyful one. Did domestic things, made a sort of plan for the day then showered under a more or less warm or cold, difficult to tell, shower head. Have charged everything nearly so fit to go. My bathroom is also Rajasthan themed, with oddly placed curtains, placed so that there’s a suggestion of hand wiping about them. There’s also a huge stone window seat in the shower, sort of a waste really. However the carvings around the doorways and windows are appealingly exotic in these days of minimalism and sharp edges. It’s round about now that I start feeling that the end is nigh. For the first time ever this time doesn’t feel bad; I suspect that it’s something to do with tearing off to Berlin after a couple of days back in Cambridge. Gosh, I am spoilt.

The scale of everything is much smaller than I had expected - except for the fort which is bloody enormous. I’m told that I will be able to walk into it, it’s a village On a rock with a defensive wall around it, within five minutes. I consider that this is flattering to my ego but totally unrealistic. Here goes...

He would have slept where he sits. Being an unrealistic romantic I am assuming that he is working hard to pass exams - he might just be filling in a betting slip of course.

Pidgeon takes a swallow dive into our pool...

Breakfast up top and it’s the, by now, inevitable masala omelette, butter toast and half a pint of coffee. Fine, but I long for raw stuff.

Bowls of flowers are place around the hotel which is quite something considering that it is run entirely by men. My heart leaps at the sight of a woman behind the desk - I know that the place will be efficiently run, laundry done, sheets changed etc. So far I have no moans about my all male staff. I took a photograph of this building yesterday afternoon and by this morning it had moved upwards by several feet. Extraordinary, a fake haveli in a fortnight; they’re probably already taking bookings for ‘winter’.

It takes an absolute age for these pictures to load up. Exhausting just waiting and hoping without any certainty that it’s happening. Lovely place, packed with the warmest-looking sandstone buildings imaginable. And the carving is meticulously precise and super accomplished. The stones below were erected for no apparent reason, holding nothing in nor keeping anything out. They are at least seven feet tall, so substantial and valuable I guess. Whatever they look rather better than most recent sculptures.

The signage is irresistible even though I feel guilty whenever I point my camera at any, after all my Hindi leaves everything to be desired.

I’m meeting a couple from the Netherlands for drinks early evening, sun-downers, if I drank. Their hotel is part of the fort walls so I’m being called to the view. Earlier today I succumbed to the call of espresso. A child led me to the rooftop café and then disappeared only to return with a very full, very large cup of espresso. I reckon that over half a pint and sugar is required. The others there were an ailing, albeit v cheerful Spaniard and a couple from Paris. We chatted. I copied them as they were eating an ‘Israeli’ salad, chopped up raw vegetables with a yoghurt dressing. It was so good to eat raw again.

The entrance to the fort was, as with others I’ve been to/through, a complicated affair involving sharp turns, foxing, at least slowing down, both animals and man. Quite often, numbering dozens, in a small city, one comes across a holy tree with accretions added by people who have a need, a sort of offering, a concrete prayer. Shiva is here, Sacred threads and pieces of ribbon are tied to the lower branches.

There was an haveli open for people to wander around. There were three of us. The place was much as it had been for a century, dust as well. There was a room piled high with cooking pots, a sitting room with a ancient typewriter, various silver vessels, wonderful views through windows to doors partially ajar. Maximum use was made of air through the central courtyard/atrium, rooms fed by tiny windows with wooden doors, open to the advantage of prevailing winds. The flat roof, and its wobbly extension, was gloriously windy, a wind that had force and heat equally: a very large hairdryer on turbo comes a close second.

Lovely relaxed evening sitting on the terrace of an haveli that is part defensive wall, one of the rounded parts, with Giulia and Bram (I think it was the one on the right in the photograph).I had expected to move but we didn’t; the sun went down and we were still chattering, occasionally voices might have been slightly loud. Brexit was mentioned. I walked home via Dr Bhang and some of his cookies accompanied me. I expect a slower start tomorrow morning.

I’ve written to the admin people for this app., trying to get the map right. 7 has disappeared and I can’t recover it. Surely a mistake somewhere, but I’m unable to find it. The numbers refer to the days when I move on to a different place.

Today is going to be a day of bureaucracy of sorts - posting home my parcel could well take three hours which, had they got several sheets of carbon paper, could be reduced to one hour. I have also got to find a functioning ATM and arrange to stay in this room beyond check out time ( up to 15:15). The detail and beauty (alongside random knitted electrical cables, litter and cow shit) of the architecture astounds me. Wandering around at sun up or sun down, demonstrates the light catching quality of local sandstone as it changes colour from \240pale beige to warm pink/saffron yellow.

Last evening I sat, with friends, in their haveli hotel, which was built into one of these towers.

The day is wholly given over to the bloody box of stuff going to UK. Walking to the POst Office, being directed to a tailor’s, having the bags condensed into a box, the box sewn into calico, addressed and then back to the Post Office. At the back of the queue. Endless import forms filled in, sewn onto the calico etc etc. A slice of life. To cap it all I was driven through town on a scooter -terrifying.

I’m planning a quiet, inactive day today. There’s a tiny swimming pool downstairs in which I might dangle a foot. Breakfast was the usual masala omelette, butter toast and half a pint beer mug of strong, milky coffee. This is the café on the roof. People move on - these are all newbies, I’m now the elder (obvs) statesman.

Phew. Dry, dry heat and lots of it. Just walked around the old town, havelis, markets and such like. Major cow shit problem so have to spend time looking carefully at the road ahead. Scooters and mopeds are risky but they don’t stick in the tread of your sandals so count as minor problems.

The havelis are miraculous works, seemingly made from golden sandstone lace. I was very slightly reminded of Stamford and it’s continuous run of Georgian splendours, after a while it becomes unnoticeable and dull. I like a variety of architecture, a city mix-up suits me best.

The cakes were £3 each and full of illegal colourings and probably not much else and I have no idea why the eggs were there, alone on a cart by the side of a side street. After potato and peas and naan on the roof I return to Kindle and bed. Perfect.

Moving on day today. My bag, at least, ought to be considerably lighter having sent stuff home. I’m keeping this room until 15:00 and will then go to the station stocked up with bananas and digestive biscuits. The trip is (at best, if all goes well) from 16:45, arriving in Delhi at 11:45 tomorrow. I’m in A/C 1.

All packed and my bag is lighter, indeed way too light in view of the many social things that will occur during the next week. My first formal invitation arrived courtesy of Whatsapp, a farewell party for the British Deputy High Commisioner, to be held at the Amir Mahal. I rather regret sending so much home; what I have left is looking so distinctly shabby that no amount of washing and ironing is going to help. I’m also going to be in a place where the laundry returns wrapped in tissue and sprouting an orchid. Bite the bullet...

My waiter for this Jaisalmer stay deserves to appear - he also makes the breakfast masala omelettes in a v v hot kitchen.

Left the Tokyo Palace, my last meal was a bowl of miso with a table of Japanese students. I enjoyed myself with them, they were so enthusiastic about English. Goodbyes were unusually emotional, especially from the person I’d vaguely looked after through Delhi belly (not very actively thankfully, just advice re drugs and food). On the station now and having to wait for the doors of the train (in front of me) to be opened. I spend quarter of an hour with the station master whilst he found out which cabin I was in. His is not an arduous job.

I also took a photograph of me which won’t be seen as I look every second of eighty. And they haven’t yet opened the bloody train doors.


Started off yesterday at 16:45 and still going. I woke up once or twice during the night; it’s 06:35 now and I fell asleep whilst reading at 21:00, so probably the longest I’ve slept for an age. I started out with two USA women in the cabin, two Indian men replaced them at some point and now I am alone and wondering where the chai wallah is.

...and no sooner written a cardomon-flavoured tea turns up. Tiny but welcome.

Just finished Less by Andrew Sean Greer: wonderful, a worthy Pulitzer Prize winner. I think that I’m in my nineteenth hour on this train and in this cabin, solitary for the last six hours, so a \240PrimeVid session - Tokyo Vampire Hotel, perhaps not the best box set ever but well up with the oddest. Probably disrespectful putting Greer with TVH.

Wonderfully sunny, blue sky, the lot and then it poured down putting an end to my afternoon stroll and meal at Saravanah Bhavan. Finished up with heaps of newspapers, bananas and a quick visit to the ATM. It’s resolved tomorrow however - I’m ordering a taxi. The men in red are what we call porters and over here are still known as coolies. Oh so improper and not at all well paid considering the huge loads they are expected to carry.

Today is National Deworming Day - free deworming for all children and adolescents aged 1-19.


Sadly my map doesn’t spell anything prophetic or contentious unlike the sad man in a van driving all over select bits of Europe, dribbling his message as he goes...

Asleep early and up ridiculously early. Taxi to airport (the Ghandi statue is double life size) and then, what is usually a bit of a haul, everything accomplished fairly swiftly. My scissors caused a hiccup but, first time ever, they weren’t confiscated. Slightly raised heartbeat as the side pocket of my suitcase was opened - the one I keep all my sleepers, pain relief in, ok it was my bloody razor frightening the x-ray machine. Bought a shirt at M & S and my papers at W. H. Smith’s - silly really (though a great deal cheaper than in UK).

My reading matter is an entirely personal choice based on my present brain power/time of day/cost (and the couple on the front page were the stars of the movie I saw in Jaipur - I’m easily hooked).

Chennai, and only an hour late... traffic slightly worse than usual as there are ‘small’ rains. Scooters, mopeds and motor bikes have the crash helmet law but it has been castrated as helmets are worn unstrapped to facilitate ‘phone use. Great hotel staff, pool, restaurants etc but slightly on the beige side of interior decoration; since most of the beige is marble I don’t suppose it’s going to change in a hurry. Quiet evening - eaten already at Saravanah B’s: Kozhukattai Kara and Medhu Vada - I had both, very nearly finished them all(vada not pictured as I order it all the time). Over-ordered as I wasn’t sure about the K. K. Both were delicious, K.K. wasn’t fried and had a granular texture and lots of supporting spices/heat. Always think that it’s a shame the banana leaf can’t be eaten at the end of a meal. Incidentally the Special Coffee was the very best I’ve had for months.

It’s softly raining at the moment, though v warm, 60% humidity(does that just mean gently rain, I wonder?). I’ll wait until the eight enthusiastic swimmers have disappeared befor I flounder my length. Not tonight: set up with Netflix, Pringles and a few digestive biscuits for this evening.

Very lazy morning, mainly eating. Breakfast was lengthy and extensive as there were several Southern Indian foods that I’ve never tried before. My absolute favourite, one I intend eating lots of tomorrow, was Vada sabudana, little balls of soba with a bright green mint, chilli and coriander sauce. Watermelon juice, two double espressos, large plate of fruit, Bircher muesli, scrambled eggs, toast, marmalade, more water melon juice...feeling justifiably stuffed and reading newspapers - The Telegraph and The Hindu.It has been a busy day with only a couple of hours after lunch before I had to set out again.I have to start with this deliciously anonymous beige marble. Bet he kicked himself as everyone else shifted into grey slate, textured walls and sharp, bright colours. Even the light are sub Dale Chihuly’s; they drip, contort and are, occasionally, massively grand but the colours are anemic. The staff are not though, thankfully. Wonderful breakfast waiter Ullash, I think. It’s important, their future depends upon customers reporting back to management with names. Ghastly business. Cut-throat...

Post breakfast smugness showing...

So, it’s mainly about food... just eaten lunch - uttapam with all the fixin’s, as they might say in USA. Of all the small pots the green one is most appealing, chilly herbal taste that perfectly accompanies the crispy onions.

It was Thai week in the dangerously close Express Avenue Mall; switching cultures wasn’t at all easy, though the dancers were very easy on the eye. I sat and (alone maybe) applauded appropriately. I then drifted, admiring Levi’s at £19 a pair, wondering how many of the shops survive with their shockingly Bond Street prices.

And there’s a wonderfully repurposed come,a across the road, it’s now accommodation for young women. Wonder who gets the projection booth? As architectural monstrosities go Chennai could well have done worse, or at least larger. Palm Jumeira, the only shiny gold building in town would, in Dubai, have been a brute and may not have had God’s Mighty Tabernacle on its outside.

Sneaking out of the back gates is by way the fastest way of getting to the Amir Mahal. It’s a lump of glass, cleaner than some but showing it’s age. Try the Pink Hotel eh? Slightly unnerving was the water touch filling up the Taj tanks. Why? And why from my fave rave South \240Indian restaurant?whatever, he’s a start and has slung Taj’s lubriscious lobby out of star place. Ha! I was asked to arrive early at the palace so that I could see the children, have a chat etc. Fine, it’s only about ten minutes away from my hotel to the west gate (side entrance). The orchard of palms and fruit trees that \240fills the left hand side of the road has grown hugely since last year the pomegranate trees are flourishing, flowering and fruiting...what on earth would one do with an abundance of pomegranates?

These wonderful specimens are on the border of the cricket pitch (locals/staff are allowed to use it).

The afternoon tea party was ostensibly to say goodbye to Assistant Hight Commissioner Bharat Joshi who is (temporarily) relocating to London, his home town. Seems and her minions had provided food enough for several tea parties. There were vast amounts of substantial food and a few plates of sandwiches whose function was to add verimisimilitude to the event. After milling about a while we went through to the thron room, where groups of chairs had been assembled, for the quiz. I was grabbed by a couple of Persian women, a fashion designer and her sister, and we made a group up with several others. Just as well as they all knew way more than me. We were probably the noisiest group, certainly the one that didn’t listen too carefully. I challenged Rai, she admitted that she wasn’t mostly at the back of the class but actually out of it in the corridor. It was a good evening, relaxing and sociable, an occasion to remember fondly. Ah, I forgot, byriani was produced in quantity, both meaty and vegetarian and with lots of bowls of raita, chilli, sauces etc. I staggered home in the dark thankful to be wearing white. Sleep didn’t come easily.

And then my laundry had been returned, once again tucked up in a basket with sheets of tissue. Exhausted...

Food. Breakfast. Am. that. full. No more words for a while...

And then there are the coffee/tea/etc staff, the dosa makes and the man who does wonders with eggs, scrambled especially (unsalted butter). This is a collaged breakfast, after it’s been ransacked by the hoards. The fruit looks especially meagre, mea culpa.

Far below: aloo bonda and masala vada, the chutney is tamarind, mint chutney (my sampler plate)

Hardly any words as I’ve just walked to and around the huge city museum. It’s a treasure trove of utter rubbish and world class, astounding items. I could only manage the two main blocks, the art gallery and the other buildings remain unseen. Maybe tomorrow? Tired out so will let the pictures do the heavy lifting...The first two pictures are my luncheon - coconut milk followed by the soft flesh. It’s supposed to be v good for the guts so I try and have one a day. They are certainly filling. I wonder just how many aloe vera the young girl sells? She was sitting there with water pot and drinking vessels so probably she mills them and dilutes the resulting ooze; it’s \240India so sugar will also be involved. There are lots of public lavatories in cities, smelly of course, but clearly there to be used. Nevertheless many men prefer to wave themselves around in public, despite the immediate proximity of a free lavatory. This one was near the river, I had just crossed the bridge and had to hold a handkerchief across my nose. I seldom do this, it looks I’m making a comment about India. Suppose I am actually...

The rest is all culture, mainly Chola bronzes, bits of Buddhist statuary ditto Hindi, one fascinating Jain and a few potted snakes. The 9th Century Buddha greets you on the way in, the man tags your camera, a tag that is invariably lost, and writes names and numbers in a register. This is yet another way of checking the accounts. It works but is extremely Labour intensive and carries rather unpleasant, distrustful, top down, messages. The first, in the interest of religious equilibrium, Hindu deity is Shiva seen here emerging from a lingam (whose lingam we aren’t told). It’s an impressive piece of S Arcot sculpture though, way taller than me.

I find these naga stones irresistible. This one has Nagakkal, Bellary DT (that’s where it was found). I call the one below Still Life with Buddha and it’s entirely typical of the galleries here. This is a wonderful piece which would be starred in many museums. It’s a large piece merely titled Buddha, Peshavar (as in naan, I suppose). That’s it, apart from its \240installation and the difficult when trying to see it properly - anything that close to the floor is out of bounds for me. I include the Jain statue because I like the way the lines have been engraved, almost drawn, onto the shiny black surface: Shanthinatha, Mysore region, 10th Century A.D.

There’s a slight break from conventional culture here as I drifted through the fascinating skeleton/unnatural history part. I’ve always lived this horse and man ‘statue’, it reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s, Mort. Look how badly this unintentionally humerous ( though the horse is smiling) addition to the museum is sited, I’d put it in the entrance hall. I was, along with everyone else in the museum, attracted to the ferocious noise I could hear coming from - somewhere. It’s a tactic that could usefully be adopted by any museum. It works. It might not be the most authentic looking/sounding T-Rex, but it held my attention completely. The camera shake was genuine, it was me checking that its feet hadn’t moved.

It escaped my attention at the time, but everything I’ve chosen supports a rather gruesome character trait that I would deny vehemently. Notwithstanding I offer these pickled snakes - lunchtime. Nah, having you on...

Back to Kulture, this time the mega stars of the museum, indeed any one of these would be a star in any major museum in the world. I’ll put in the two acknowledged biggies as well as a couple that made me think. This first one is Ardanarishvara (Shiva and his consort Parvati joined half and half) found in Tirurengato, Mayiladurai Taluk, and dated from 11th Century, standing at about four and a half feet tall. It is said that Mrs Thatcher took a great liking to this one - thankfully it wasn’t Queen Mary. All of these are from the museums Chola bronze collection, lost wax etc. Look at the detail and consider the process, then remember when they were cast and marvel. The other star is Nataraja, Shiva as Lord of the Dance, the cosmic dancer. They have many of these but none is as complete, indeed I have seen loads of them in other countries/museums and I think this is the most complete - whirling hair, flames, belt, the devil of ignorance, they’re all there: near Thanjavur, 11th Century.

Finished as I started, with food. I have to write down the names of stuff I eat else I forget totally. Here, from Saravana Bhavan (the boss waiter was v keen \240to tell me of the six branches in outer London) are Bonda followed by Sweet Paniyaram (cardamom and coconut perhaps). His minion brought them to my table and he told me which one was ‘salt’ and which one was ‘sugar’. Don’t care, they were all very acceptable, albeit deep fried.

Photographs taken after midnight, so legitmate. I got between curtain and sheet of glass for the city shots, drawn by the presence of people in the well-lit sandwich filling. It looked like a sparsely populated lounge on a liner.

Bought a large bag of boiled sweets, though I only wanted ten mouth fresheners. They’ll last me a year at least. Breakfast had its usual debilitating effect on me so I’m collapsing for a while. Trying new things that emerge from the kitchens is partially to blame, e.g. a medhu vada (donut shaped one) and \240katchori. They are small.

It’s been a long day, made longer because I made myself walk all the way to Chalmier’s for lunch with Latha. On the way I shopped in a jute shop wherein all the products were produced by destitute women. They are mainly bags, pencil cases and the like and all v cheap and colourful. Chalmier’s was unchanged, an oasis of calm and relative sophistication. The two salads we shared were terrific and wholly healthy. So very close to the end now that I feel I ought to go to bed and stay there until the taxi arrives to take me to the airport. Sadly, my legs appear to have shrunk - old age I suppose.

A coconut a day keeps the witch doctor away. I would love to be able to buy and ship stuff over to U.K., starting with a load of wicker furniture. The cost of shipping would well exceed the cost of buying though. Towards the end of lunch it started to rain, we heard it bouncing off the roof. I tuktuked home as my umbrella is a frail affair, ill-suited to a tropical monsoon. It’s movie night tonight, me and a bag of crisps and something trashy.

Independence Day 2018

Another huge breakfast, one that will keep me going until 17:00. I discovered the homemade jams today - papaya, blueberry and pineapple. They tasted wonderful, especially the tart berry compôte. I now have to do a dummy run on packing to find out if I need to buy a bag for the hold. Dreary task. Latha’s later for teatime snacks and, I hope, gossip.

I intended walking to Latha’s but just around the corner was The Old Curiosity Shop and in it was a huge collection of fountain pens and bits of stuff. The owner wasn’t in the least interested in selling anything, a refreshing change. This not so minor detour meant I had to tuktuk to Alwarpet where we had small foods for tea washed down with lots of mint tea. The balls are Kuzhi paniyaram to be eaten with coconut ‘chutney’ and an unpictured bean salad (with tamarind) and aval (flattened rice) with jaggery and coconut for a sweet finish. I was disciplined but could easily have gone mad and eaten the lot.

I have to put a little text here if only to separate the following photograph from the food. Delicacy don’t ya know... Despite many articles in newspapers, Bollywood movies even, all deploring this fact, men still choose to pee in the street, even though there are many urinals about the place.

(Below) This arrangement is usual and several houses in any street will have it outside their main gates: a water pot, cover and secured drinking vessel. It’s an act of kindness now, though I imagine it was initiated through necessity way back. Every bathroom, even the ones with an exceptional shower, has a huge plastic water container, jug and small, low stool. These were/are used rather like the Japanese pre onsen cleansing rituals.

I have a busy last day - lunch followed by tea separated by several mile. Lateness beckons...

A woman with wet hair plonked herself down next to me during breakfast, asking if I had slept well last night, not bothering overmuch whether I answered or not. I waited, she eventually looked at me; I thanked her and said that I’d slept well, she turned red, apologised and moved to the next table where her man was having a mild attack of hysterics. He bore no resemblance to me at all...

I walked to the palace, only about ten minutes away at a very leisurely pace, for a farewell lunch. Mostly vegetarian but one distinctly not vegetarian bowl that didn’t look in the least bit tempting. The salads were wonderful, especially as I’ve hardly had any raw food since I’ve been here. The pudding comprised a plate of delicious sweets. We walked around the palace to Asif’s brother’s bit of the house, a new-build, though this is not at all obvious, and drank green/mint tea...his wife suggested that the old joke had elements of truth in it: you offer green tea because, 1. \240you save on milk, 2. \240people think that you are posh/clever and 3. \240They never ask for tea again. I was very touched, and pleased, to be given a photograph by Asif - it will sit very well in my upstairs sitting room alongside other Chennai bits. I might have to persuade B.A. that it’s ok to carry this and that I won’t create shards of glass etc. etc.

I have to rest before taxi-ing to the airport at 01:00, i.e. eight hours time. Enjoyed my walk home, there’s always a ton to look at and be amazed by. Wonder how the neighbours would take this colour scheme if applied to my house (or Sue, come to that).


The decision was to run my day into night and back to day again, hopefully picking up a few hours sleep en route. The usual palaver at check in as they won’t accept a pre printed boarding card. A v nice young man led me to a desk, leaving queues of people staring, the more so as I walked away with boarding card and lounge pass. I’m there now: espresso, Amritsar fish and three quite spicy salads. Odd combo but suits my mood. Asif’s (not small) framed photograph was let through unchallenged. It’s all wonderfully quiet and the flight is delayed by two hours and counting. Don’t care...

I bought Toby some duty free rolling tobacco and, for the first time, read the bit of paper I signed: l am carrying these duty free goods on behalf of Flamingo Dutyfree Shop and I undertake not to use/consume these till I land at my destination out of India , wherein I become owner of these goods. Golly, who knew it? Naturally I decanted the packets into my bag hiding the too, too gruesomely illustrated big box. It’s probably the least assuming airport lounge I’ve ever been in but it is peaceful, comfortable, adequately staffed and catered; I’d go a long way to see gently green bread. Bugger, it’s over, it really has to be over when reduced to photographing what looks like a National Health waiting room and moulding Mother’s Pride.

Not such a late take-off, 06:30 and they always manage to whizz through bits of the trip, making up time. Does it matter? Nah. Window seat and aisle access aboard a Dreamliner, that’s what matters oh, and their excellent, commanding safety film you can’t but watch. This year I will be sleeping, close to sleep right now and no amount of persuasion, pills or alcohol would keep me awake. I spent last year’s trip drawing the stern man opposite me, he didn’t move, fell asleep, the perfect life model.)I’ve woken, it’s 04:10, UK time so I \240think I can say goodbye to any more sleeep. I asked for a port and got one. It feels so deliciously transgressive. My repertoire of alcohol that I find entrancing, and would like to extend my knowledge of now includes Sauternes, Barsacs, Beaume de Venise and port. I am, as yet, indiscriminate about such niceties as vineyard and vintage and my indulgence is likely to be twice a year. Watching the magic map with its toy aeroplane flying over the landscape of dreams - Bam, Kuh-e-Kaftah, Lut desert Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kandahar. These are(admittedly) bad dreams. It’s also difficult, looking on it from above, to imagine that there are any places down there that need a name, let alone have one... the next dune over sounds about right. Iran has just appeared on screen as Tashkent disappears. The sand dunes have switched from rocky promontories, poking up out of sand, to a more traditions flow of sea-like sand dunes, wave after wave, a place in which you can only get lost once. The rest of the photographs are there because I like flying, so skip and slide into Berlin which, unless you love art, will be a terrible anticlimax.

Subtle eh?

It’s near Tabriz...and on the tube to King’s Cross I see Jesus in an armpit. How I’ve missed these permanent reminders of the herd mentality.