Our world becomes smaller

Lucie couldn’t believe it. She’d adjusted to our road being closed because a neighbour was positive. Walking up and down the street, escaping via the park, squeezing through the railing at the road end. She could manage.

Now they’ve shifted the fence to enclose just our house and the neighbours. So Lucie’s patch is small and access to the park tied up.

I completely support them rearranging things so the whole street isn’t inconvenienced. But we’ve been tested and presumably found to be negative. We can only assume that as we haven’t heard from them.

The owners son Manu and his daughter who’ve tested positive are now in hospital.

We’ve spent three months being really careful. I’ve only been out to walk Lucie and cycle in the morning. So how’s this happened?

The owners family called me two weeks ago. The grand parents are elderly at least one with underlying conditions, Bangalore was getting more incidence of the virus, the dad was working from home and daughter not returning to school before September.

If it was available could they come and use the downstairs house? After some discussion mainly about looking after my stuff, (furniture, art, Manjula’s significant picture) I agreed. Happy to help out where I could.

Of course we didn’t expect to have the virus brought into the building (downstairs house). We just have to deal with it. Poor SB is quarantined in a small house and we have this hassle here. We’ll manage and try minimise the risk.

There is however two very annoying things.

He must have thought he may have had the virus before he came here otherwise why get a test the very next day. Thoughtless? Uncaring?

We’ve avoided the virus in the whole layout for months. Now it’s here some people will think it’s down the foreigner …… that’s annoying.

Manjula and I always tried to be kind, helpful and positive. I’ll leave the last word to Lucie.

If only I’d learn

People, mainly men are gathering on the street corner.

One is clearly very senior. I can tell from the way he’s bossing everyone around and then he turns to me. Instructions spew forth.

For a moment I forget I’m in India. I ask who he is. He refuses to tell me. Name? ID? He orders me into my house.

I slowly begin to recall I’m in a land where civil servant doesn’t mean civil and doesn’t involve service. It symbolises I’m above you, do as I tell you and don’t question.

The reason for all this?

Our neighbour has tested positive for the virus so our street is now closed off, clamped down and we’ve been tested.

I understand the situation and will comply with the restrictions because it’s for our common good but why do we have to tolerate this sort of attitude?

I need to know my place. Coming from northern working class England where we don’t do deference isn’t easy and is no preparation for this.

I could say it’s this sort of attitude —, (I’ve saved you the tedious details), the hierarchy, do as your told, no questions asked — that helps lead to authoritarianism. But then I look in western countries. I include the US and UK where we’re brought up to challenge and officials can be quite a lot nicer but still we have to tolerate tin-pot dictators.

Where are you Manjula? I need you

Why does the foreigner

Save that old stuff

The neighbours think I’m bonkers and a joke.

Art work from every place in India is throughout the house. They can sort of understand that, but it’s not practical or functional.

Why save the wooden wheels, the cart sides, painted chairs?

I remember as a child, the horse drawn wagons, workshops repairing wheels and tailors in every town. They’ve all gone now.

We still have them here but they’ll go. In the eight years of mycycle tours the number of wooden ox carts being made at the workshop we visit has decreased by over eighty percent.

Hopefully some will recognise what is happening and work to preserve the heritage…, fab city, life affirming trees, characterful market, .. beautiful colourful women, skilled artisans there so much wonderfulness. , Otherwise in future years the neighbours will remember the crazy foreigner and realise he was right and understand what they’ve lost.

Why write?

I’m trying to create something new in my life since misplacing the beloved one.

It’s to try my hand at writing, specifically to share our story.

Last year I wrote a few short stories posted on this site as factly fiction. They were to help me learn, improve my writing and find my voice (it’s still lost).

As a trainer and guide I’ve been telling stories anyway and I’ve realised that writing is an extension of that to share ideas and insights.

One example of a fictional story is the Phoenix Coup. I was taking ideas of how we could organise differently. Shift away from endless growth, decentralise control and localise our activities. Some of the changes we’ve seen and need to see more of at this ‘time of virus’ such as a guaranteed minimum income, reducing the working week, more active participation in organising things themselves are being reported on. For example local labs or a town that has sorted out its own testing for the virus

So why write? It’s to share ideas and connect with people in a different way.

I hope you find some of interesting and even entertaining.

Consistently inconsistent, that’s my India…


1 Bearded ladies

Bearded ladies, I’m joking, it’s about people wearing face masks, they do sometimes look like bearded ladies. At lockdown 90% of people walking the streets were wearing facemasks, astonishing to see that level of compliance, it wouldn’t happen in England. Now that lockdown has loosened its 80%. That’s worrying as over the next few weeks expecting thousands of repatriated Indians from abroad should be even more careful but credit where it’s due people are unusually for India, following the rules.
bearded lady with a disguise.

2 mobile phones

not driving while using the phone, haha, you must be joking… on a carefully calibrated sophisticated sampled study, yes random cars driving past me standing on a corner, before the ‘time of virus’, over 50% were using their phone. Hardly any were on hands free and a fair proportion were even texting. and the number one loser was a policemen.

He was in his fancy big SUV/Jeep type police vehicle, driving along the double road (dual carriageway) with his arm out of his window texting on the phone. Bad.

This is normal in a place with normality, that’s NOT following the rules.

This is not to say it doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world, this just happens to be were a live, it may be exactly the same everywhere else, it just isn’t

3 Drinking water

Now this is the most consistent thing I’ve ever found in India. When drinking an unbelievable 99.9% of people don’t let their lips touch the glass or bottle and this, in the land of inconsistency. Apart from being a great safe practice, this is probably number one example of people in India following an ‘unwritten rule’ seriously. It’s true, even where water is in a jug at a chai shop , or yes, on a wall alongside a construction site, everyone does it. Astonishing!

A community asset

In the USA some are concerned they may lose their publically owned postal service.

They’re right to be worried. It’s a social good that could be lost. In the early 90’s in the UK I recall conversations in social services about how services such as the postal service helped connect and create healthy communities. Individual posties, and refuse collectors and others who delivered to the home helped people feel less isolated and provide a safety net.

Well since those remembered discussions we’ve reduced costs of delivery, reorganised the services endless times, utilised technology, using a tremendous amount of effort and other resources. Why? To reduce the cost of the service to the consumer? No, it now costs more. Ok, to improve the service? No, there’s now fewer deliveries and more limitations. Well, is it better for the employee? That’s very subjective but I’m told that it’s not for a series of reasons. So why has there been so many ‘improvements’? In my view it’s to reduce operating costs, to increase profit potential and sell it off. And what happened? You know.

I write this as someone who’s family has worked in Royal Mail for many years and who’s worked as advisor on helping it to be a more responsible responsive organisation in terms of employee wellbeing.

So was privatisation a success? yes in terms of creating a profit for investors, and admittedly some limited income for government but in terms of being an asset to our community, in my view it’s not. We’ve lost the social value.

Storytime five

When the lovely Poppy my granddaughter was born I arrived one day with a boxful of picture books from when her father Ben and uncle Oll had been children.

Today’s stories are two from that collection by two of my favourite author/illustrators Michael Foreman and Anthony Brown.

I also like the books as they introduce issues that are important, whatever our age.

The first is dinosaurs and all that rubbish by Michael Foreman

The second is a walk in the park by Anthony Brown

Story time

A story read by Stephen for little and big ones here watch this place for more stories while we’re all at home.

I bought the book for Manjula as she was getting so thin. She loved it.

Old times

“Returned to the creek, and life became busy and expectant, and the valley echoed with the sounds of bridge-building and a young woman’s laughter, and Marvellous was suddenly wrenched out of old age like a seed potato wrenched out of the familiar comfort of dark.  ….. And Marvellous blossomed, having quite forgotten what an exciting and necessary jolt being needed gave.”

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from a Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. What a wonderful way with words she has.
It resonates.