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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Saturday, 28 January 2017

Post script on India

In the incredible everything that is India the detail is what goes first, so this is a post script of the trip. I am no longer young in years but surprisingly young in spirit and with friends like Philippa Kaye the temptation to return and explore more is strong. This trip must be remembered for what spoke to me on all the days I was there. 

The colours which remain undiminished and undimmed in spite of the dust and dirt.

The little tots travelling in a tuk- tuk driven by a very old man, barely even moving in the busy traffic. Aged four or five in their uniforms, sitting any which way on the tuk- tuk. No safety belts here, not even an adult chaperone. They were chatting ten to the dozen while he plugged away at moving forward and towards home. 

Going past the Amber Fort which is so majestic no one sees the hillside to its right which is graveyard of kites or if you like the  fancy -dressing up of trees. 

Just beyond, a girl in a red and orange sari rides side- saddle on the back of a motorbike texting - no hands holding anything other than her phone. 

Two young men on the back of a lorry lost in a bed of onion sacks dreaming ... of onion bhajis.

Three tolls on our way 60, 58 and 121 rupees. Please explain the rationale of those numbers. 

Watching mynahs skip and scurrry among the big lorries waiting in line at the tolls. The Stuntmen of 
the Bird world.

The picture could not be complete without cows - making their mangers in the central reservations among the rubbish and chewing studiously on a newspaper. Are they any wiser ?  

Finally and with enthusiastic applause, my thanks to Balwant Singh, patient driver and user of his indicator - a habit which is not a given on Indian roads. He negotiated me ably in and out of traffic jams, cows walking across our path, and cars driving the wrong way up the motorway. Smart and able he was a careful driver but also gave us insights into politics, history and the Indian world as he knows it.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

D is for Desi Dogs

Taking a leaf out of Philippa Kaye's latest blog,  I can add a small postscript to her D is for .....

India's innumerable strays - also known as Desi Dogs. Adopting two while I was in India was how it should be, making the family bigger and sharing the caring. On my recent trip I saw that while their numbers are just as large, the caring is undiminished. Often shops will adopt a desi and make sure it is fed and so many of them in central Delhi wore their winter coats. Bizarre eh but true. These are dogs whose lives are usually lived on pavements, but they are strangely well cared for. This is a posting for Monica Mitsides to thank her for all her hard work as she sets out with her dogs, all in their winter coats ! 

 Happy Republic Day to India 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Waking up the senses

Since arriving in Jaipur I have been woken up every morning with the call to prayer at 5.30 am. The first voice booms as if from my balcony and in a manner of minutes more join in and the whole of the city is simultaneously nudged from sleep. Some of the chanting is more melodious and seems to float on the dusty clouds, others bellow out the words Allah is Great and woe betide you if you are not listening. 

Soon after, the familiar whirring of the tuk- tuks making their way into the backstreets delivering or picking up passengers with the more than occasional honk and the pigeons starting to coo in the tree outside my room. 

The swish- wish of the sweeper and the clearing of many throats follow- and I note with some amazement how they can clear them at all. In a week of being here I can feel my lungs trying to expel the dust and dirt and failing. Towels show marks of the dusty day and skin is dry as parchment. 

The breads are being made and the smell of garlic and ghee and sizzling spices add to the mix of heady smells and people are bundled up and waiting for the sun to start working its magic. 

All night long the music blares whether from the front lawns of the hotel where a Rajasthani band is brought to amuse the tourists or from megaphones placed strategically by your ears as you walk down the street. The trombone player was part of a wedding band that we encountered in the hotel which hosts the wonderful music concerts of the Festival at night.  I was swept in to the procession by one of the hosts and gaily danced down the street with them. Late that night their party was coming to an end as ours too was winding down. We saw them sitting on their peacock throne, a little subdued it seemed to us all. Perhaps the excitement was proving a little much even for them and their bed beckoned for that much needed salve before the Iman sang again. 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

JLF 23rd Jan 2017

Last day of the Festival and the crowds are beginning to thin. The first Session is one which I am drawn to if only because of the title it bears "Manelists, Misogyny and Mansplaining". The Panel a group of women and a white haired man. That in itself was odd - but I listened carefully to Antara Ganguli telling us that feminism was about equality and I found that explanation perfectly good. We heard Anuradha Beniwal telling us how difficult it was to be a chess champion in a man's world but also talking about her humble and rural origins where women's roles are very defined. Don't go out, don't dress provocatively, move to your husbands home when you marry, be subsumed in other words. We all know the mansplaining problem and as a panelist put it being talked over as a woman is as common to someone as Hillary Clinton as it is to a girl from Bihar. 

We all recognise the difficulties women have faced over the years and Ruchira Gupta was an excellent and advocate for women's rights and the importance of fighting for them and how important education is in this. 

What however I found unsatisfactory was that the middle aged man was constantly been put on the defensive and Bee Rowlatt turned to him and asked him how it felt to be a token man on this panel. He was questioned on his position on many issues and each answer was effectively rubbished. Perhaps because they were rubbish but for me this was not the point. First he was a bad choice - the male candidate should have been a contemporary of the other women and spoken about how he was brought up and how he perceived women, instead of this man who resorted to the word "gentleman" to explain his position to women which instantly got him into trouble. Some of the women on the panel were verbally aggressive and dismissive of the man on this panel and maybe there was good cause but it did not come over well. I have always felt that unless men are brought on board in a manner which is respectful and open they will not play the role  they must have in the change which is so much needed. We are talking about equality and this must go both ways. What was on display yesterday on this panel missed this important point. 

Between the Silences 

Naleema Dalmia Adhar took centre stage to talk to us about her new book "The Secret Dairy of Kasturba". Kasturba was Gandhi's wife and she is a largely forgotten person in the history books. The focus of course was on Gandhi. He married her at a very young age and while her early life was very much by his side, a fact largely ignored in his later life and in the history books, he took a vow of celibacy and embarked on some strange sexual experimentation with young girls, some as young as 18 and from the  extended family, which must have had deep psychological effects on the women and on Kasturba herself. Naleema who is a psychologist said that it took her 12 years to write this book but she feels it is the right time for it to come out. A time when people would be ready to accept it for what it says. This is a fictional account, based on some of the records and writings from what she thought Kasturba would be feeling. She also talks about Gandhi as Mohandas the husband and the father - a man who behaved cruelly to both his children and his wife and the difference from the Mahatma, the father of the Nation who at the time took on the whole of the British establishment and was able to galvanise a nation to rise against them. She said that of course his importance at the time is undisputed but that he is largely irrelevant to India today - A few years ago a view so publicly proclaimed might have met with some criticism. It is perhaps indicative of how far India has some that this kind of discussion takes place in a public forum. 

The day ended for me listening to the magical readings of some distinguished travel writers - of course travel writing together with poetry is one of the oldest forms of writing known and it has endured in spite of the bloggers, the go pros and the open wide opportunities of the World Wide Web. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

JLF 22nd Jan 2017

The signs were hopeful, black tea and a little of that super porridge to set me up for a very exciting day with plenty of loo roll just in case things didn't go my way. 

It could not have a better start then listening to Nobel Laureate Richard Flanagan talking about his masterpiece " The narrow road to the Deep North" a story, for anyone of you who have not read it, about a provincial doctor in Australia who goes to war and comes back scarred.Richard read out two pieces - one on love and one on the a father's efforts to persuade his children to fold clothes with the fold out... you might be wondering why but it was because this is what they were forced to do in the internment camp where they were imprisoned by the Japanese. All I can tell you is that as Richard read a passage on a woman describing the love for her husband who was killed "Every room has a note, and suddenly the note bounces off the wall, to make the perfect sound.. everything comes back to you when you find love. But I was the room and he was the note and now he is gone there is only silence" members of the audience were moved to tears. It took him 12 years to write the book, based on the story of a Latvian refugee and his father who was actually a POW in Japan. Memory is an act of creation and often we chose what we remember. He travelled to Japan and sought out a 92 year old guard who was in his father's camp. He remembered aspects of the camp but not the terrible violence. Richard asked the guard to slap him. This small graceful man got up, he said and  you could see his body remembered the violence as he tensed up to slap him. Richard then felt the room started moving and he thought something had shifted in his mind but in fact it was an earthquake. He said interestingly that the man was frightened by this, but he could see no evil in the room. He finished with "A novel is a journey into your own soul which allow us to live the 1000 lives we havent lived". 

Lines in the Sand The Picot- Sykes Agreement and the shaping of the Middle East. 
On this panel was James Barr who has written this book - but also Christopher Sykes the great Grandson of Mark Sykes. We heard how the young Sykes was born into a wealthy family in the UK but was sick at an early age and his father was told to take him to a hot climate. So he started travelling with him to the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East. Sykes spoke Arabic and did a number of interesting photographic journeys across the East even while at Cambridge which were published at an early age - he became an MP in 1911 and wanted to use his knowledge of the Middle East. With the war looming Kitchener set up a committee to decide who would take what areas after the war. 
In 1915 Sykes was sent to Paris to meet Picot and draw a line in the sand. After many negotiations the north part was administered by the French and the southern part by Britain. Picot signed in ink and Sykes in pencil ! The British were not very pleased with the outcome. Subsequently it was largely viewed as an imperialist machination but was also often used as an excuse by the Arab nations for the fact that they did not progress. Its significnce was curtailed by the Balfour Agreement in 1916 but it is an interesting fact that the jihadis in their incursions put out a statement that they were destroying the colonial Picot Sykes border which had been drawn up all those years ago. 

Susan Linscomb gave us an hour into the lives and loves of Henry VIII. She suggested that our mental picture of Henry is not very flattering but actually in this youth he was an athletic, handsome and accomplished young man whose first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the wife of his dead brother, was doomed because no male heir was produced. He went to great lengths to dissolve that marriage to marry Anne Boleyn and waited six years before he could marry her. Sadly their baby boy died and she later went on to have Mary. She was however accused of adultery and conspiring the King's Death and Susan has done considerable research on this as to whether this was a conspiracy and the king was very unhappy about losing Anne or whether there was fuel to the allegations. She suggests that  there is evidence to support the former theory.Whatever the outcome, Henry who by now looked like a Square with a prominent cod piece to show his virility felt he could behead the lovely Anne and marry Jane Seymour 11 days later. All in all she hasn't quite dispelled my image of Henry VIII but it was a good try. 

The best session of today was Luke Harding talking about the death of Litvinenko, a compelling account of his time as a Guardian correspondent in Russia where he was followed and harassed by the KGB. He pursued this story even after he was deported from Russia.  The UK inquiry about the death of this man who was poisoned by polonium indicated that it was probable on the evidence that that the assassination was ordered from above and that Putin effectively is a murderer. Of course Litvinenko died in the Uk where he fled to take refuge, but 23 other journalists have died in Russia for speaking the truth. Gripping and compelling it will undoubtedly be made into a film one day but more to the point is the current relevance of Putin's interference with the US election, the very strange and "cordial relations which Trump and members of his team have with Putin and what lurks beneath. "A Very Expensive Poison The Murder of Litvinenko". Watch this space. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

JLF 21st Jan 2017

The weekend has started at JLF and as always it takes a while for the city to wake up. So our first session is a breeze - we walk into our seats and listen to a very entertaining talk from a panel of renowned playwrights, authors and directors. The subject matter "The Page is mightier than the Screen" with Alan Hollinghurst, Neil Jordan, Richard Flanagan and the amazing David Hare in conversation with Chandrahas Choudhury.

Some amusing stories from David Hare who apparently tried to write a screenplay for Jonathan Frantzen's "Corrections" - 23 drafts didn't do it and it is not looking hopeful. 
Richard Flanagan who won the Nobel for Literature for his book 'The long road to the Deep North" said that a novel needs nothing more than the courage of its author. Everything in film comes with a price and ends up often being mediocre. Neil Jordan added that while films decay over time, the power of the word in a novel survives. David Hare reminded us that there is always resistance to new art forms but that he enjoys working with talented people who could contribute to his own work but that undoubtedly there were different processes involved in writing a novel to writing a screenplay for a film. He pointed out that once he made Michael Cunningham's novel into the film "The Hours" for the first time ever "Mrs Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf (on which it was based) shot to the top of the US bestseller list. To be faithful to a novel you have to be promiscuous in your interpertation. Sometimes this works, other times it can be disastrous.Playwrights like him don't even want to contemplate others changing their work but often there is licence to enable directors and actors to give the novel on which the film is based a differing slant, ending or perspective.

The Magna Carta has been brought to Jaipur - or at least a facsimile of it. 
In a session called the Magna Carta the Spirit of Justice, Claire Breay who curated the 800 anniversary of the charter in 2015 and Helena Kennedy QC talked about the charter's significance with Patrick French, David Carpenter and Chintan Chandrachud. 
This 3500 word document written in Latin is probably one of the most famous documents in the UK, but also around the world and while not many people can read it, or know what it says, it is perceived as being a corner stone for the protection of fundamental rights - basically stating that no one is above the law. There are 4 remaining copies from the 13 originally produced. While it does not have the status in law that some people think it has, as Helena Kennedy said, she often quotes it in her legal cases against the government and other bodies because it is an enforceable document. David Carpenter hailed it as a fundamental protection against tyranny, explaining that part of the reason it came into existence is to give some protection to free men from the tyrannical rule of King John. The essence of the charter, rather than its detailed provisions has been taken by many as a flagship for the protection of such rights.

A discussion on Brexit drew unparalleled crowds- the panel was slightly skewed with Andrew Roberts being a Brexiter and the rest, A.N Wilson, Timothy Garston Ash, Surjit Balla and Linda Colley largely being in favour of Remain. There was general consensus that the Brexiters ran a shameful campaign but that Remain, with its scaremongering, was probably even worse. The result was very close and so it could have easily perhaps gone the other way. The reasons, as stated by Andrew was to take back control of the UK- not having someone unelected by the UK legislating for the UK - but of course the answer to that is that judges are appointed not elected so this is a spurious argument in my view. Economic factors were also raised and a very disingenuous argument again was put forward that the Uk could choose not to have the white immigrants from Europe in favour of highly skilled ones from say the Commonwealth - that appealed to the audience but as the moderator said it remains to be seen if the situation for Indian Visas to Britain will be better in the years post Brexit.  The economy is intact at the moment, due perhaps to the devaluation of the pound but we have no idea once Brexit kicks in whether it will continue to grow and how long it may take to get out of Europe and find alternative trading partners. The question of the four parts of UK falling apart was also raised.Timothy Garston Ash raised the important point that Europe has now enjoyed 70 years of prosperity and growth and no warfare. Brexit and the possible break up of the European Union might endanger that peace especially with Trump not supporting NATO. Finally the spectre of fascist movement rising in various parts of Europe was discussed with Andrew Roberts choosing to be away from them, almost as a form of protection, while the others plainly say that the UK had a role to play in ensuring movements like these did not come to power and the underlying causes of discontent and disenfranchisement  instead, were properly addressed.

I went to a hilarious Hindglish session with Devdutt Pattanaik. This is a man who has devoted many years to Indian Mythology and he has just brought out a book called "Olympus" in which he draws parallels between the Greek Mythology and the Indian one and tries to see how Alexander's passing through the sub continent left his mark and the Indo-Greeks who followed him, drawing parallels between Hercules and Krishna and their mythical powers and achievements. Greek mythical figures are often seen to go on long journeys fraught with danger to achieve their goal or get the girl back ...Their purpose as far as Devdutt sees it is to be extraordinary. However he saw that in Indian mythology the god is not a judge as in the Greek one but an accountant and that the purpose of life was to be debt free. I thought that was an interesting take on the Indian psyche - he hoped that in fact both civilisations had reason to borrow from each others mythology. 

The Dishnourable East India Company was on in the afternoon with a distinguished panel - William Dalrymple moderating Giles Milton, John Keay, Jon Wilson, Linda Colley, and Shashi Tharoor.This was the strangest take over in history really. It starts out as a trading company of silks and spices and ends up taking over the entire sub continent of India. By the end of the 18th Century the 250 clerks of the East India company backed by Indian soldiers took over the running of Bengal and from that to the entire country...

At this point dear readers I am a small blip in a crowd 5 deep and I am being shoved and pushed in all sorts of directions. I find refuge on half a chair in a shop with a sweet shop assistant who kindly allows me to sit down. I feel the need to, as two things conspire to stop me being able to hear the panellists. The chatter of those shopping and the rumblings of my insides. Yes, I have been struck down and shortly after I fled in a tuk tuk to the safe haven of my lovely haveli for a sit down and a cup of tea. I wonder how many of you lovely readers will read this to very end ...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

JLF 20th Jan 2017

Listening to Roy Foster must be one of my highlights of the Festival and this is only on the second day. The talk was entitled WB Yeats - the Arch Poet. This is what I like best, listening to an authority talking eloquently and authoritatively on their subject matter. Roy Foster has spent some 18 years studying Yeats and listening to his poetry this morning was breathtakingly beautiful, the flawless language, the rhyme, the complex set of ideas and images.
National Poet and Nobel Prize laureate he is a identified with Ireland's history and cultural life. He was a politician, a revolutionary and a theatre director who quarrelled with, and comforted his country in equal measures. He made Ireland culturally fashionable. He wrote about her struggle comparing her to a woman who needs to be liberated. We listened to "The Second Coming" a poem which resonates with the events of the 20th of January 2017. "Ireland in the coming Times" about Ireland's revolution. "The Tower" where he lived and wrote some of his best political poetry and"The Spur" written late in life with some sexual undertones. He died in the south of France but was eventually moved back to Ireland. His poetry, like nations, can be great in their complexities and contradictions but he was undoubtedly the Arch Poet of Ireland whose work is as relevant today as the day he wrote it.

The Kohinoor Diamond is the subject of William Dalrymple and Anita Anand's new book. 
The Authors decided to trace the actual history of the Kohinoor, as while much is written about it, little has been proved.Theo Metcalfe's report on it is one of the only sources but little is substantiated. It has a fascinating course through history ending up in the Peacock Throne but finally being taken from there and worn on the arm by Shah Jahan and successive Maharajas ending on the arm of a sweet 10 year old boy Dilip Singh. He is eventually separated from his mother who is incarcerated and he ends up signing away the Punjab and the Kohinoor. He is raised by john Logan and becomes a Christian and visits Queen Victoria in London. The diamond which is in her hands is cut and re faceted for the Great exhibition, so much so that Dilip Singh doesnt really recognise it and hands it to Queen Victoria. But what of course is the most intriguing part of the story is the curse of the Kohinoor and how in its path it left many dead or dying...

Barry Cunliffe 's book "By Steppe Desert and Ocean" was a fascinating romp through 10,000 years of history showing us with maps and facts the birth of Eurasia and the start of our globalised world.
The start of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent to the production of market produce in the nearby areas. The Steppes, the open grasslands were where the horse was first domesticated and this allowed the movement of populations, with the development of paths and passages which we know as the Silk road linking East and West. In the deserts it was the commodities that were traded.The larger than life statue of Genghis Khan and the reach of his empire. Cunliffe has studied the movement of populations seemingly always East to West. One reason may be the wetter more lush weather which affects the grasslands, another might be a fascination for where the sun sets. I liked that idea. 

A. N. Wilson and Shrabani Basu had the best conversation about Queen Victoria - her real character and not the stern public figure that her children painted of her. She was remarkably liberal, non racist, empathic person of high intelligence who loved to laugh and explore the exotic. Instead the image most of us have is of a woman in black with an unattractive bonnet and the saying she is probably most famous for "We are not amused." Shrabani has written a book well worth reading about Victoria and her Indian Servant Abdul Karim. A.N Wilson is an authority on the Victorians. The amount of interesting information  that the speakers imparted on the Queen's relationship with the handsome and tall Abdul was captivating. He  travelled everywhere with her and taught her Urdu. There is evidence of her learning Urdu in her notebooks over 13 years, the most endearing of phrases found there was "hold me tight". Victoria loved India, though never visited. The politicians were concerned she might say things which were politically incorrect, showing huge sympathy for the de- franchised Indian princes and royal families. The book will be made into a film to come out in September of 2017 - part of it will be the corridor in Osborne house where Victoria lived with all the portraits she commissioned - Abdul Karim is there in his handsome splendour. She was very close to him and often travelled with him to the south of France and insisted that they newspapers acknowledged his presence. He came into her life quite late and he relieved the loneliness she felt after losing Albert so young. Her family however were very dismissive of this relationship and the day after she was buried Abdul Karim was asked to hand over the copious letter she had written to him and they were all burnt. He was eventually deported. 

The day ended with an incredible panel discussion called "The Unravelling" High hopes and missed opportunities in Iraq.The almost unbelievable account of Emma Sky - a British Council official who decided to apply as a volunteer to help Iraqis gain back control of their country after the invasion. Her extraordinary journey on a mere phone call to the war torn area where with minimal briefing and training she was put in charge of the the whole of Kirkuk. How she eventually travelled to Baghdad and became a political adviser to the American General of the occupying army. Her story read like a script but it was chillingly true and revealed the huge deceptions and misleading information which led to the war and its aftermath and of course, as recounted by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri who wrote a book called "Perilous Interventions", to the damage the invasion did to the region as well as it being the cause for the creation of ISIS and its aftermath. All the panelists spoke to the massive failures of this exercise and how even today we might say that Trump is not an unconnected consequence of these errors in the Bush, Blair eras.Western Intervention which was unplanned, based on erroneous facts and so damaging to populations, trust and alliances. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

JLF 19th January 2017

As mythical and magical as a preacher in full force Anne Waldman started off the JLF with words of caution in this troubled world where chaos and darkness looms but for the salving power of the creative poetic word. She took to the stage like a shaman and the words of her poem "Anthropocene Blues" spoken with fervour and passion captured the thousands who were listening, caused goosebumps on our bodies, with collective approval of the importantance of creative arts to deal with this world of post truths and populism.She is no fan of Donald Trump.
Gulzar, renowned poet, paid tribute to the massive effect the Festival had on the young and urged them to stay connected with their roots and literature. The place was packed, the sun shone and once more after much fanfare at the entrance JLF was off to a massively good start. 

David Hare is probably one of the best known Britsh Playwrights and he answered the many questions of his interviewer with wit and humour. He wrote his memoir "Blue Touch Paper" almost from a sense of bewilderment of what brought him to playwriting. There is no formula, he doesnt really know how plays will be perceived, by audiences when he writes them which is of course the litmus test of success. He likes to be ahead of his time and never shies away from the controversial so he has dealt with 9/11, the Invasion of Iraq and the GFC of 2008. He loves the challenge of writing scenes, particularly where they are to support streams of consciousness as he has done with a number of his plays.He is particularly fond of putting women centre stage. The problem, he notes, is finding male actors who can play the subservient role. 

Sadhguru has a massive following. The naughty and dreamy child of a physician from Mysore he was always getting into trouble at school for not " being there" and just taking himself off physically and mentally to places he would rather be. There were some fascinating insights into this yogi's young life as a motorcycle afectionado and a construction entrepreneur. Finally somewhere on Chamudi Hill of Mysore he had a transformation and felt he had hit a gold mine - he didnt want to miss the opportunity of making it better for the world. He talked engagingly about how most suffering comes from within and therefore it is imperative for the short time we are on this planet to find ways to make our mind work for us. Touching our own inner intelligence will help us find our place in the cosmos. 

Paul Beatty is a big bloke with a booming voice - and he has written this crazy, irreverent and humorous book about a hood somewhere in America where the chief character carries on a strange existence including trying to reintroduce slavery. He is the first American to win the Booker Prize, no small honour and he was unprepared but happy to have done so, as the book is unconventional. Call it satire, call it hypocritical and humorous, he was clearly not going to go along with labels as they mean different things to different people and asked the audience how they perceived his book.

There was a session called the Legacy of the Left - we are all wondering what has happened, is it still alive, will it have to reinvent itself, how can it now sell itself to the people in the rise of populism from Trump to Marin le Pen and other movements world wide. There was consensus it was still alive but needed much resuscitation and then there was a Power Cut ! Ah welcome to India - I thought - I could not have visited without experiencing at least one.

The day ended with the beautiful and diverse poetry of among others Anne Waldman, Ruth Padel,Vladimir from St Lucia, Toshani Ghosh and her infatuation with Patrick Swayze, and the truly impressive Kate Tempest from the UK who is a master of the spoken word, spoken without hesitation, recited with passion and purpose, and from one so very young. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

How does it feel ...

To be back in India

Back to Hindglish - the gist is key.
Saw my first stray at the airport and my heart missed a beat.
White small cars abound and scurry like ants across the lanes.
Most straddle two, others squeeze into one.
"Rush hour"is a euphemism and a Porsche I saw is destined never to thrive.
Throat clearing and spitting, mouth curved down.
Pedlars songs early morn, brought a smile.

Hazy smog fog
Dust dust dust
Brahmini kites soar
Minah birds scavenging on tarmac
Rape seed fields in yellow bloom,
Slowly edged out by a frenetic building boom.

Trust transferred to Balwant Singh.
To negotiate motorway madness
Headlights deemed permit to travel
Wrong way to traffic flow.
Saw my first camel cart
And a new Japanese Zone.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Changi's best kept secret

Forget the Louis Vuitton and the Prada. I have discovered a whole new angle to Changi Airport in Singapore which is so much more preferable then window shopping for items on display I would not be caught dead with.I am all for diversity in this world, and there is still a market for them, but they are not my cup of tea. I did find another and the cup was full and overflowing.

Did you know the airport has a Butterfly Garden in Terminal 3?  I pushed the heavy door open and was momentarily thinking this was Kew in the Hot House or Brisbane last week. The air was heavy and the moisture palpable but the plants love it and it shows. The pitcher plants were full, the leaves glossy and the flowers bursting with colour. The blossoms were just the kind of triggers that the butterflies are looking for, inviting and sweet with nectar, and ready for indulging in a good feed or some old fashioned hanky panky.

I wandered round taking in the information and the beauty of the butterflies around me – what a perfect way to while away the time a flight is delayed, open to all, but you have to look for the sign and be curious enough to follow it.
Now you know, it’s a perfect little Singaporean secret.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Cold and hot snap

Happy New Year Everyone - we left the Uk which despite its state of limbo - ness was remarkably welcoming and peculiarly unseasonal. There were however what I would call some cold snaps, when the frost lies on the ground, the ice forms on the ponds and the grass is spiky and crackly. There is a beauty in this cloak of cold talcum powder and we were able to enjoy a few walks in the early morning, before the sun had a chance to work its magic forming strange tree like structures on the sea  front wall as the frost turned to water.

And then SNAP back in the heat of the sub tropics where the trees are exploding with colourful  energy and the rain has washed the garden fresh and pushed the weeds up in numbers which will have the head gardener aka C tossing and turning in his sleep. And here the warmth of colour signals invitation to others to come and join the fun with wheelbarrows painted by Papua New Guineans and now in the Gallery of Modern Art.