Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Thank you Jeremy Corbyn. 'May your tribe increase'.

The conspiracy within the Labour Party to get rid of Corbyn succeeded because the rest of the membership allowed it to happen. Today I remember the hope and confidence within the party when Corbyn became leader. When the young chanted OOooooh Jeremy Corbyn in the most unlikely venues, I thought, at last, there is light to be seen at the end of the tunnel.
   Here is a man who never said anything he didn't believe in, never posed and wooed the Press.  He had principles, recently missing from politics. He was honest, caring and fair. He energized ordinary people like me to step out and canvass for Labour. In parliament, Corbyn didn't slash below the belt like May and Johnson. He was civil and professional. In the wrong place obviously. What is the point of being polite to Boris bloody Johnson?
   The Labour manifestos during the 1917 election and the 2019 debacle were a wonder to read. At last, we were going to attempt to remedy some of the imbalances in our festering society. But it was all too much for the electorate, too long used to accepting whatever excrement was handed out to them by the Government in power, Tory, New Labour, whatever...
   The NHS, of course took a crippling hit, because they said, we had no money. The money tree was barren. Corbyn maintained that money would be found when and if the Tories wanted to find it. Like right now. I rest my case.
   A country has to be pretty diseased to elect a Tory Government, as of ours now, which is not only uncaring right, it is also incompetent, incoherent and incapable of planning. When did they start considering ventilators and masks for the hospitals? Tomorrow?
   What makes an impoverished section of the country vote Tory? And that too under bungling, blustering buffoon, Boris. In my worst moments I thought the red wall in the North, which had turned toxic blue, deserved what they got.
   They took it all out on Labour, on Corbyn, blindly following  the glib 'Get Brexit Done' distraction.     So, I am writing to thank Jeremy, who tried so hard to educate the party, the public, the people, and failed because he never learned to do the suit-and-tie act. Any time you care to come back, Jeremy, I am right behind you. I think  the country lost the one opportunity they had in decades to try to have a level society. The Press, of course, were complicit.
   I think Starmer will do great. I hope he succeeds in booting the Goves and the Borises out.
   I love you, Jeremy. And thank you. You restored my faith in politics. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Isolation 31.3


The milk is gone -- all four pints of it. Not satisfied with that, the selfish so-and-so has also taken our
milk- bottle basket, fruit juices and bread, all of which came with our delivery early
morning yesterday. Corona brings out the worst in some people, fortunately a tiny deluded minority We have occasionally had one pint stolen, (I thought I should put some sugar out to go with it) but the whole delivery? Jesus wept!
  I normally wake up to the sounds of the workmen tinkering with metal and stone from the building
site across the road from us. This whole road is gradually being re-constructed by greedy developers.
Old England is disappearing fast. (Some of it like, houses without central heating or indoor toilets
for instance, we are glad to forget) Alan Bennet, where are you, who moaned so powerfully about
that lost landscape?
  Our road was the epitome’ of grace and privilege. Houses set back from the road, lovely green
lawns and trees, three-car families flaunting their wealth… I often felt out of place here, like a bag
lady at the Savoy grille) Now, we have these monstrosities, three and four storey flats with mean
little windows and no parking spaces. Maybe the new residents who will move into the flats in front
will be a little more friendly (I hope) than the stuck-up doctors and such-like, with their heads up
their fundamentals, who took the developer’s generous cash and disappeared
   Today, finally, the workmen are staying at home. So, I have unobstructed view of the three mobile
toilets, one cobalt blue, one leaf green and the other sky-blue, which served the builders. As I write,
the only distraction is the 24-hour news-feed about COVID 19.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, published 1937

(Not going out at all, except into the garden, on the rare days when the sun peeps out. Not today. So, too much time to do some unnecessary thinking:
Random thoughts about my antecedents.)

 I believe this book by Lin Yutang spoke to an impulse already in me –interestingly, it came from the shelves of a man who was a declared hedonist. I was nineteen years old when I read it, going through an ascetic phase. I had suddenly come alive to the fact of the poverty and misery in India. I had fallen in love for the first time (for all of three weeks) with a young man who had no time for me. Deep contemplation and life-choices were in order.
  The refugees from newly-born Pakistan were fleeing into India still (this was 1954); they had trickled through to Kerala in the far south of India. All were sick, starving and in some cases, mutilated. Muslims from India were going in the opposite direction, similarly traumatized. I read too much, had just finished looking for inspiration in the old and new Testaments, The Baghavad Githa and Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga. Thompson’s An Indian Day, which came at the end of this readathon stunned me. I could no longer live my casual, gossip-and-cinema existence with my friends. I drew away, started wearing white clothes, put my jewelry away and became vegetarian. My aunt said I needed a laxative and my father looked hard at me and as usual commented, ‘She’ll get over it.’ He was right. But my friends became impatient with what they called my posturing and abandoned me.
  Lin Yutang spoke to me directly about enjoying all the sensual things in life. Use your senses, he said. Enjoy the murmur of the crickets, the gurgle of a happy baby, the birdsong, all the sounds that make you stop and listen. Look for the beautiful in your life, flowers, sunsets, whatever gives you pleasure. I remember reading that one of the most satisfying tactile things in life would be to scratch an itch. And so on with food, smells…
  This was a gap-year for me and I had time. We lived surrounded by rice fields, as far as my eyes could see. Every evening, I sat on the edge of my compound, blissfully alone, with my latest book in hand, relishing that lovely feeling of contentment. Later, in the night, as the rain poured in torrents, noisily, down the Calicut tiles on the roof, I lay awake and listened. The crickets set up a soft whir and the bull frogs croaked in their watery domains. I have never since enjoyed a more complete existence.
  All my life since then, I have let my senses revel in the world around me, the people in it, and the spaces around me. I remind myself, agnostic that I am, that this is all there is; don’t let it slide past unnoticed.
  Some Hindu spiritualists believe that we are living in Maya, a hallucination. This life does not exist; it is magical entertainment for the Gods, of which there are so many in the pantheon.
  So, wherever I am now, I am open to the sights and sounds and all that make me aware that I am alive. I stroke my cats till they purr, watch the goldfish in the pond (they are not unlike us humans) and the sunlight glinting on the silvery Kochi backwaters near my house is magical.
  Within all my insecurities and discontents there is quiet core of completeness, thanks to a Chinese author I stumbled upon at the right time in my life.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Of Issues and Tissues

Of Issues and Tissues

It was a stray mention on Facebook that started my deep meditation about important issues and tissues. Like toilet paper and kitchen wipes, baby nappies and all else that wipe, clean and we throw away.  My friend, Sue, I know, considers all her buying options carefully. For instance, she doesn't buy anything from Amazon. There was a discussion on Facebook, between her and friends, on the most important issue (tissue) resulting from COVID 19 and the panic buying. Toilet paper in particular.
  I have been in this place before, I think. There was the time in Ndola, in Zambia, in 1971, when there was a run on toilet paper. I couldn't care less, as I was hanging on to my Indian/ Kerala personal hygiene  protocols. The crisis passed unnoticed in our household.
  Later, in the early 1980s when I worked in Makeni in Sierra Leone, there was an acute shortage, which lasted a while. I lived on the Makeni Teachers' College campus, where I worked; the students in the hostels created an enormous cacophony about the absence of toilet paper in their bathrooms. Mr Lenga- Koroma, our no-nonsense Principal told them off for acquiring 'Western' habits. 'In your villages, how did you manage?' he declaimed from the stage in the auditorium, to disgruntled budding teachers.
  Enough detail on this delectable one -- suffice it is to stay that our college water supply was not reliable. Nothing was in assured supply in Makeni except the warmth of our Makeni Temne people.
  Apropos of all this I did an audit of our larder in prosperous Purley, and considered the numerous things we now consider essential, which I had not heard of in Thalassery, where I grew up.
  I came across, tomato sauce, disposable nappies, pure, flowing cooking salt, Jeyes cloths, sponges, shampoo... Instead, in India, we had crystallized salt, which came straight from the sea via the local corner shop; it took a moment to dissolve in our conjee, occasionally looked a little sea-grey, but it cost almost nothing as the sea was just round the corner. For sauces we had pickles and sweet chutneys, and instead of shampoo, we managed with chick-pea flour and moong paste. Worked well enough. The chick-pea left skin smooth to the touch. The moong was a nuisance when it wasn't ground properly to a paste, it would stick to our long hair and take ages to  wash off. Sometimes we used pounded Hibiscus leaves for our hair; it made hair lustrous. My first soap -- a green Rexona -- was a gift from my father at the wondrous age of fifteen.
  As for nappies, my children grew up on cloth napkins, which I washed and re-used; for wipes for surfaces and floors , we used old cloth. I am delighted and grateful for all the new things in my Western existence, but I would not call them essential.
  So it's back to basics for me.  Starting with old strips of cloth for my spills and surfaces and floors.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

The Age Expert

I've been wondering over a year or so, if I should start a separate blog about things connected with ageing. After all, at eighty-five (almost) I could safely say I have some experience. 

  For instance, today I am thinking about the ways in which age diminishes perfectly harmless people like me. I have been thinking for a long time about visiting a close friend who has been ill. So I am going from room to room in my house asking my son and my daughter as to who might be able to drive me there. And here's the crux: they are nice Indian children who wouldn't dream of saying 'no' to this request. Then I see them peering anxiously at their diaries and deadlines and I'm not sure I like this dependence.

  Two years ago I would have taken a train from East Croydon and fumbled my way to Sheen Court. But today, I know my balance getting in and out of anything (trains, cars, toilets et al) is suspect. I have fallen only once till now -- that was the day I decided to wear a sari after ages. I get this occasional urge to assert my Indian beginnings. So I am stepping out of my front door and as front doors go, it is a grandma trap. Two or three different levels and steps to manage. (Now that I know, I negotiate with the door and the steps before I commit myself and my stick.)  My slippers came off my feet and I tumbled, ingloriously, into the flowerbed and the Pyrecantha.

My friend, Michael, who was giving me a lift to the Croydon Writers' monthly meeting had a good laugh after he had hauled me up. 'Being fat saved you.' he said, not unkindly, when it turned out I hadn't broken any bones. Just the argument with the recalcitrant Pyrecantha, a few scratches and bruises to nurse for a few weeks after.

I meander -- another old age illness: Now I am not allowed to drive. My socially ultra- conscious children remind me that I shall be a menace on the road with my uncertain levels of spatial awareness. They've got a point, but another little sliver has been broken away from my life.

I contemplate my long-ago life when I drove a Landrover in the interior of Sierra Leone where the roads were so bad the pie dogs slept in the middle of the road. Vehicles tended to to drive on the strips of soil on either side to avoid the rutted middle. It took five hours to reach Freetown from Makeni and nine to Kabale in the North. The distances were small, but oh, the roads!

Uber is a blessing when I can afford it, but I am a little wary of it. I have a tame taxi service that is also expensive, but I know my usual taxi driver who I request.

I am not giving up -- I shall consider how to get my freedom of movement back, if only in my head.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Royalty under Scrutiny?

Royalty under Scrutiny?

I must admit I am a republic kind of person. Don't like any monarchies anywhere. As my father used to say: they have the same needs as us, the same demanding bodies -- they need to fill their stomachs, evacuate just like us. So what's special? 
   So royalty - their divine right - is a myth, like the ones Harari mentioned in his Homosapiens. They exist and are revered (like the banks,the Gods...) because we allowed that myth or legend to exist. We promote that construct by our actions, our words and our unthinking collusion. 
I have huge respect for our Queen, because she has been durable and committed to her role. Take her out of the equation and what is left is an empty familial group without purpose or point, except their own perpetuation.   
   As to Harry and Meghan, I wouldn't care less as to what they do next. So long as they go quietly and don't clog up the news with the family scandals. Or stay and be happy. Harry, I hope, retains that quicksilver quality and generosity of spirit that is not too obvious in other royals.
   I notice that Prince Andrew's shenanigans were quickly glossed over -- let's focus on Meghan now. Thank you, Media. Bullies as ever.
   And, of course our delightful Media have decided that Meghan is fair game. Especially because she is not snow white and submissive. The global warming, the Iran crisis, all of this is Meghan's fault, in case you didn't know.  How dare she -- non-white, foreign...
   And, incidentally, why is it always a black person who is called upon on T V to discuss the race issue in this. Where are all the fair-minded white people who can see the obvious?

Monday, 6 January 2020


Completely potty POTUS. I used to think we could laugh him off. Ignorant, babbling, tweeting, mad Trump. I forgot that he was also evil, and that the American people, in their infinite electoral wisdom,  had presented him with unassailable power. (Not unlike our own masochistic workers in the North.) Now he is is threatening world peace and nobody knows where to look. His cohort of hawks will pull the strings and the President will sway on his feet, make his finger and thumb into a circle, and pronounce.
   We get profundities from the likes of Jeremy Hunt. Apparently, nobody can predict what will happen next  in Iraq. We need a failed Conservative leadership candidate to tell us that? Johnson, of course, is keeping well out of it.

   The PM is probably recovering from a fortnight in Mustique. He needs to pause and see if he can think at all before opening his mouth. And he has to pass a comb through his hair. Or, maybe, Cummings is not available to tell Johnson what to say. He, now, is busy devising strategy for new Civil Service appointments. He's busy.

   Where are all the big names in our Tory mis-government? We have our soldiers in Iraq, likely to be assaulted.  Has no one of those gloating Tories anything to say? Like Trump made a huge miscalculation. Like the President needs to draw his claws in.

  We have enough natural disasters in the world now without man-made ones joining the act. Australia burns, S E Asia drowns. Though the media is not giving much airtime to the drowning Asians.

   I suspect the world has gone into a masochistic phase. Why would a working class electorate in the North of England vote Tory otherwise? Why would a tolerant Indian population get fixated on religion and Modi? And why indeed Trump?

   In my most despairing moments I tell myself -- you just get on with your reading and writing, Anand. It's cold, but on dry days you can still do a walk in the garden with Lily, the dog, running around with unexpected joy. Five years will go quickly by; we should be wondering how we can help the folks who have shot themselves in the foot handing their fate over to Johnson.

   We gave up on a good leader, who stood for equality and fairness. Now we, the Labour Party want to elect ANOTHER leader. What was wrong with Corbyn? We can't blame him for the BREXIT debacle. Labour is full of promising leadership aspirants, I hope they have plans for what to do for the next five years. And not just for themselves or the Party.