the BIG trip to the UK

Madam English, as she’s known hereabouts is back from her BIG trip. We travelled the length and breadth of the country, for over six weeks, fitted VERY important family events in, had a reunion camp, got muddy in Wiltshire, met lots of Mysore Bed and Breakfast guests, spent a fortune and had a rare old time!

Thank you to the lovely people we know and love for making this such a super trip.

Presents (limited, of course, to sensible cost and numbers), include: spinners (mad craze in the west), nail varnish (highly sought after western quality), shiny things, and various other odds and sods are being distributed as I write. A really big hit for the guy who runs the veg shop (hi!) is Gordons Gin, from duty free. He’s paid for it (we’re not made of money, although many think, I am) and he’s ecstatic about the flavour, its clearly a notch above the local gin.

Well what a trip it was……

 

We’ve covered the North, South, East and West, wet old things in Yorkshire,

 

Dorset, Teesside, Tyneside, even Lancashire (there’s long-standing issues between Yorkshire and Lancashire), Derbyshire, Wiltshire, my son’s wedding to Alice,

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sorry wrong photo (I’ll deservedly get into a lot of trouble for that!)

Oliver, my other son’s visit from Canada,

connectiong with my lovely Granddaughter Poppy, family reunion camp, WOMAD music festival,

family in Sheffield, Hand made parade in Hebden Bridge….

oh, and London, of course

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Madam English now knows why we Brits go on some much about the weather, we’ve had it all. She now knows about being prepared for it to change in a nano second, carrying endless clothing variations, layering and Hot Water Bottles when camping.

She’s so English, she has learned how to complain (Indians, generally not being big complainers and just tend to get on with it, really?) but still manages to have a great time.

we thank everyone… so much… for making this such a wonderful experience.

We’ve  lost count of how many of our old and new friends, including so many Bed and Breakfast guests we’ve seen, met in London, visited their homes, bumped into at the music festival, its been superb…. and did we mention all the meals we’ve eaten….

and at the end of it all we’re a bit tired

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all our photos (these and many more) are at the usual place at flickr

So what does Madam English think about the place?

How did  Lucy manage with Eric?

village life, visiting family

Extraordinary ordinary

Manjula’s brother Raju, and his wife Deepu, daughters, Amrutha and Hamsa live in a small village of 290 people with around a 100 houses. Its 3 hours away from Mysore. It isn’t a quaint picture book village, even by Indian standards. It’s people are very poor. They do however have great character.

God only knows what they think of us arriving in a car, having driven here just for the day. At one point Manjula points out that the other villagers (not her family) will be shocked as she sits in my presence, they think I’m her boss ;-). Imagine how her life has changed.

The family always look forward to Manjula’s visits and this time, especially so, as it’s the first since the BIG trip to the UK.

At their house, the only door leads into the ‘hall’ which is maybe 9 metres square, in which there’s a couple of plastic chairs (probably borrowed for the guests to sit on) TV (gift from us) cabinet holding absolutely all their worldly goods, it’s where all the family sleep, eat and the copper/fireplace for heating the water is in the corner where there’s also space for bathing.   The only other room at the back, is where Deepu cooks on a stove.

Well, of course they had to look at the holiday snapshots!… whatever the culture, its a friend/family obligation 😉 to have to sit through the photos. With pain there is gain!!! …. The rewards from the DIG trip are presents of clothing (suitably labelled ENGLAND and LONDON), perfume, soap and  English sweets: chocolates, sherbert liquorice, the ones that go pop in the mouth, were clearly a big favourite. Discreetly Manjula placed some money next to the Goddess Lakshmi.

It’s a poor village and most people are related in one way or another, they are all from the same caste. They are mainly farmers. The odd person, such as Raju, works in construction. They do however have two small schools and children once they reach age 11 will go to school, at the next village.

So what’s this?

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Growing ginger…I’ve never seen it growing before and together with sweet corn, potatoes, Ragi, and the ubiquitous coconut, in the dark rich looking soil, it seems to show that this is a very fertile area.

We take a walk around the village. Most houses are similar, just one or two small rooms. We nip through the fields to visit Deepu’s uncles. They have a larger house but it has had two families living there.

They seem to be completely off the network of canals so, they irrigate from rainwater and borewell. I have seen one toilet (the very basic toilet that’s supported by govt funds) while walking around, so I assume that everyone otherwise uses the fields.

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Here’s Manjula using one of our established signals. She had just been for a no1. I know, I know, too much detail, so here’s a bit more. I’m now sitting here back at the family house. I’m stuffed. We’ve had rice (two types) a selection of fried bhaji, (carnivores had some chicken) all followed by Keer, and helped down with generous glasses of Lilt (lemonade). I’m wondering if I’ll manage the journey back before I need the loo. I’ve already used the bushes!

Electricity is maybe three hours max during the day and most of the evening, sometimes. It really brings it home to me, how materially rich we are and what a different life we lead! Its been a great trip and so nice to see the family happy to be together.

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I’m now very aware that we should be sharing more and wonder what it is they really need.

Farrell Factoid

There is a massive shift of the population from rural to urban areas. Raju’s wives uncles had three children and two have moved to the cities. It’s not surprising when people are so poor and they can earn maybe three or four times the usual rate, in work that’s more regular,  if they shift to the city. If they are lucky to get a thorough education they’ll definitely move.

We have a variety of signals. (see no 1 above) Another, is used (in other contexts) to signify glass half-full or empty, is used when we meet someone who’s a bit negative, a Marvin the Robot or Eeyore type or alternatively a very positive and optimistic person.

Postscript

As I’ve said, it is a very poor village but it’s still important to respect one’s Gods and build Temples. The last picture is a relief copied from the Temple they are replacing! Manjula says it’s not to go on facebook so it’s hidden at the back here. This can’t be such a surprise, after all its in the country that gave us the Kama Sutra.

 

 

 

one helluva trip

Lipsmackin, thirst quenchin travel …..

…..in a plane, train, open top buses, flash rental car, over and underground, Thames boat trip, friend’s cars, chain ferry, tram, narrow boat, taxi,

 

and a three week road trip to see the sights of England and Wales, London.

Of which… There’s just too many sights to mention….

passing through Chesterfield, Dronfield, Huddersfield, Sheffield, cities that haven’t been fields for a very long time,

Hereford’s black and white houses from hundreds of years back, countryside of Dorset, Oxfordshire, Warwick, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Wiltshire, Wye Valley, Avon, Bath, steam fair carousel, Kingsclere, Hebden Bridge, ancient standing stones at Avebury and Stonehenge, the white horse, seaside at Swanage and Pool…. phew… no wonder I’m short of breath

burning up the roads or alternatively, gently chugging along whilst at times laboriously stepping up and down the canal,

…… glamping and camping, music festival, hills and dales, breathing in the history, basking in the sun, (amazingly, with very little rain Manjula reckons she brought the good weather), bee hives, art installations, museums, pubs, restaurants, restaurants and pubs, shops, shops, shops, markets, High Tea, Mummies,

 

so much walking Manj complains of aching legs, cycling (only one of us doing that) visiting old and new friends and family, restaurants, shops, political dialogue, (yes BREXIT was discussed and UKAOs)

’rounding’ as Manjula would call it and its a good job I took Gina’s advice ‘not to overdo it’ on reflection it was helluva lot.. who knows what’s racing around in Manjula’s brain 😉

meeting and staying with BnB guests, on sofas, beds, futon, air beds, camping, absorbing difference, chatting, shopping, eating out, appreciating it’s clean and green and above all and what really matters is ….

… meeting and sharing our time with wonderful, kind, patient, caring people.

 

As Manjula would often stop and exclaim…. Wow!

Thank you to you all for making this a special life time experience for Manjula.

 

our last weekend

The Grand Finale

It’s been a blissful mix of fun over five weeks. Well that’s my take on it anyway…

(Manjula’s perspective might become clearer after she’s settled back at home. I look forward to it! 😉 )

…. The last weekend was no exception, with time spent with Poppy (yes Ben and Alice did trust us to look after my granddaughter all on our own), dinner with Emma at Ben’s restaurant (carefully arranged so that he wasn’t actually working there …. doh!) P1060185and then on what was a our last public day a sunday ‘open house’ at our friend Angus and Gina’s in Brixton. P1060186

 

If you weren’t there, we’re sorry to have missed you. It was a great event.

 

 

Manjula prepares for the final few days with a serious threading at some shop or other….

and we go down Oxford Street to meet Indian (yes, more Keralans’ sending money back home) and have one last double decker bus ride to take in the key attractions: Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square… you name it, we’ve done it.

Saturday was reserved for bonding with the ‘pop’ (aka Poppy the granddaughter). we went to the park, swung on swings, bathed in the paddling pool and made friends.

I was also called upon to do other duties!

and the grand finale: ‘open house’ at Angus and Gina’s in Brixton to say our fond farewells to friends old and new, family and …. guests from that ..

.. Bed and Breakfast.

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at the event, we realised that Gina, Frances, Laura and me (Stephen) first met at University exactly 40 years ago!! blimey! 😉

How is that possible?

All this activity just allowed for one more day for a build up of sadness, a last meal with Angus, Gina and Frances to pack and prepare for the big trip, back home.

So that’s Manjula’s first BIG Trip out of India, we’re now back in Mysore and while Manjula gets to grips with what jet-lag is and I wonder

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what’s next?

 

well I don’t know about you but I’m keen for her to share her insights from what she’s seen, heard and experienced and maybe then we can start thinking about a few more adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

we’ve had a culture top-up!

London is such a cultured place!

our great friend Brian and his wife Leverney travelled down from Yorkshire for the day to treat us to High Tea at the British Museum followed by a look at the Exhibition: Krishna in the Garden of Assam (and in passing: one or two mummies taken into protective custody by the British Establishment)

The exhibition is well worth a visit and of course there is much much more to see at this wonderful institution.

As Brian and Leverney are two of the very few people I’ve actually met who voted for BREXIT we just had to cover politics over a couple of pints of beer. The conversation about the UKAOS (as I’ve started calling it) to leave the EU was illuminating. More later.

Manjula often teases me with reference to Krishna and the Gopi girls, so I was in for a little bit more today. It sort of relates to the fact I have one or two exes (three of which remain really good friends and Manjula has met during this trip)

The very next day another friend Victoria (no not an ex) treated us to a visit to Kew

this included the hive, which we’d heard about from Stephen, the bee man and cyclist, and regular visitor to Mysore Bed and Breakfast, check out his article

you’ll find him popping up all over the place.

so yet another collection of lovely memories for Manj

WOMAD

No MUD WOMAD

Manjula’s Latest FIRST was a camp for the weekend at a music festival.

 

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Manjula once again brought the sun to England! There was cloud but very little rain. Changeable weather, absolute downpowers and all types of mud known to mankind are real risks at any English festival but not this time!

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One of many highlights was Anoushka Shankar!

It was full of new experiences for Manjula

We camped (in our own little village of individual tents, event shelter for a living room and our very own kitchen tent) with a great group of friends. Manjula prepared one of her signature dishes for dinner.

Manjula’s view on life

I have no idea what Manjula thinks of the experiences she’s had in the UK. Just look at her clothing! ….. a world away from her daily wear of Saree back in Mysore. It has been a very rich and varied experience and as with other things, she takes it all in her stride. She’s becoming a very western woman 😉

I look forward to hearing her reflections, once its all over and she’s settled back into Mysore.

Farrell Factoid

WOMAD, the World of Music Art and Dance is held annually in the South of England and in locations throughout the world such as in the Canaries and Australia. It was originally created by Peter Gabriel the original vocalist of the band Genesis. its a great mix of international music both contemporary and more traditional ‘folk.’ As a group some of us have attended the festival for over ten years.

Life abroad

no no it’s ……. life aboard.

As you can see, It’s a hard life ‘on the cut’

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As part of Manjula’s BIG Trip we’ve spent four days on the Kennet and Avon Canal.

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Organised by Sally it was an opportunity to test out whether  we’re made out for life on the canal. Sally is a previous guest of Mysore Bed and Breakfast who has become a great friend.

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Mike, Sally’s parter has lived and worked on or near the canals, all his life. So we had an experienced team in charge helping Manjula and I get a proper introduction to life on the waves!

 

Manjula’s helping us through the locks to take the narrowboat up and down the hills.

Cooking Mysore specials on board

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and taking a well deserved rest!

and Stephen was even allowed to steer the boat on his own, without crashing it and there were only one or two near misses!

There was plenty of time for stops at the Pubs.

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Farrell Factoid

In England and Wales there is a network of canals through much of the country. The first to be opened was the Bridgewater Canal near Manchester in 1761 to transport coal. As an integral development of the industrial revolution it became a successful network for transporting goods and living on board. It has a great history and strong community. At its peak there were 6,000 miles of navigable rivers and canals. Now there’s maybe half that number after many fell into disrepair. There has been a tremendous effort to rebuild and reopen after significant investment and the tremendous involvement of thousands of volunteers. It’s now an invaluable resource for holidays and home for many people.