Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Instead of the 5.1 billion colander

I hear we are the proud owners of a 5.1 billion steel colander. Vow! as they say, short of words. I expect that even if you are homeless, or a single mother with no food to feed your children, you could still feel proud.

   Even pushy-Putin noticed. Not too well, I hope. He can be dangerous, in many ways. When a colander takes water in, we have to wonder whether Putin somehow managed to scupper  the 2017 Titanic. 

   Could be bad oversight too. More common these days to find shoddy work in our country. Lots of things, which should be waterproof, and leak - proof, like stories about MPs that 'mislead' (new word for the plebeian porky.), or have wandering hands.  In India we used to call these men with multiple hands spiders. I stray from my point of today.

   How many units of housing could be built with 5.1 billion? My mouth waters. A bedroom and a kitchen and a bathroom would be a great deal better than cardboard boxes and tattered quilts and puffas.

   And food? The Christmas turkey? Well, any food at all. And clean clothes. Clean body after a bath - with soap and hot water.  Not much to ask for really in 21st century Britain. Yet, those numberless ( Nobody knows the numbers) homeless won't remember how THAT feels.  Disgraceful!

   How many people would 5.1 billion feed, and for how many years?

   What is urgent in our self-obsessed island is NOT Brexit, not investigation of predatory men (a curse on them.) but food and housing for the poor and the abandoned. First things first.

We should all say, Mea Culpa. The Government should say it many times.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Book Greed

Book Greed

Where books are concerned, I must admit I have committed every sin possible under the sun - except folding corners in to mark pages. I put them face down instead, also remove dust jackets and put them away while I read, and then forget to put them on.

   Faced with books to read I am like a hungry, greedy person faced with a feast. I grab, I ingest too quickly, get indigestion, and then go back for more.

   The last month was a bad month with me and books. Maybe it was the last three months. The madness started with the Booker long-list and descended rapidly into the short-list. Some years the Booker is a huge disappointment; this year I cannot complain. Or did not till they selected the winner. I found the Saunders novel or ghost story, Lincoln in the Bardo impenetrable - the only one that defeated me.

   At one time I had four on the go simultaneously - Autumn by Knausgaard, Ali Smith's Autumn, 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster, an outsider, The Golden House by Salman Rushdie and for light reading, Crow Girl  by some Swedish person with an unpronounceable name. . Alongside I also devoured some passing poetry. Crow Girl is going slowly, surprising as I like Scandiwegian crime stories. Instead I read an old favourite author, a Backman novella And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. Backman is inimitable. And profound.

   Now you know why my writing never really gets done.

   I find I have no discrimination where books are concerned. I'll read anything if I am book-starved. Like the weekend in Blantyre when I ended up reading advertisements in a newspaper.

   I have made a decision though. I will NOT read a book I am not enjoying, just because I started reading it. LIfe is too short at eighty-two to waste on imaginary disciplines. I thought Paul Auster would be abandoned - it was so long. But I enjoyed it. His style is always engaging and though I could manage to learn less about the sexual exploits of American teenagers, Auster was a quiet late-night indulgence. I could not hold it up in my hand in bed, so ended up buying both book and kindle copy. But it is a book I would keep in my collection.

   This is not meant to be a book review, but I liked Roy's latest book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. She flies a few flags but I think these are flags I would fly myself.

   What next? Do some writing is the correct prompt.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Following up on Tyranny - our very own special kind

Following up on Tyranny - our very own special kind

Here in Britain, the once-great, we are perfecting a very special, home-grown form of tyranny:

   Some of it is class-based, and who knows better to wield that invisible soft-truncheon than us? I ponder - the so-called upper classes: what do they have in common? 
   First there is that cut-glass accent, for which you attend special schools and submit to all sorts of atrocities, caning, separation from parents sometimes as early as at three or four years old, bullying, which becomes a way of life, which you can learn and use to torture other new-comers when you have become a senior, predatory masters and seniors who believe buggery is part of the culture and will do no harm...

   All these atrocities happen in other places too, I'm sure, but the captive situation of the poor sods has been well-documented in English literature.

There is the Tory sense of entitlement. Theresa May believes she has to carry on being Prime Minister even when she is failing on all fronts. The Tories believe governing is their birth-right. How dare unremarkable, slipper-wearing, Jeremy Corbyn, who can't even knot a tie properly (and Cameron's mother has to advise him about sartorial matters) even contemplate becoming Prime-Minister? And getting to No 10? Unthinkable. That more than becoming a Prime Minister, after Cameron (who has sold our European Heritage to please his back-benchers, absconded in a unholy hurry.) Thank God we did not lose the Scottish referendum as well.

   There are people among the Tories who believe that even Boris Johnson ( who can't be bothered to do his homework before he opens his mouth and puts his foot in it,) Rees-Mogg, who thinks rape is hardly the fault of the rapist, and Gove (who thinks Weinstein is a joke rather than a historical calamity.) are all suitable candidates to become Prime Minister. We'll keep Jeremy -unt out of this account because I'm sure even the Tories will not tolerate him.

   I think Mrs May believes she is not accountable to anyone. If the Parliament votes against the sorry welfare package called Universal Credit, let the M Ps hide in the toilets till the vote is over. And pretend it did not happen.

   If the European Union makes mince-meat of our bargaining positions and laughs at us publicly, let's ignore them. We just have to hang on to power. And not answer any questions or give anyone too much information.

   We can always bribe the D U P.  Give them another two billion if they raise their little worm-heads.

   Forget the food-banks, the NHS down the chute - how many Tories know what hunger feels like? How it feels to have no NHS on your side when you are old and ill? I'm old and I realise I should have got old a long time ago. Not just now.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Multiple Faces of Tyranny

The Multiple Faces of Tyranny

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what tyranny was, but now the many faces are confusing me. I am unable to distinguish tyranny from just mere cussedness.

   There is China to start with, getting more and more prosperous by the day, and retreating politically to some 17th century despotism. The young tried, once upon a time, in Tiannamen Square, to get past that, but did not succeed. You can't succeed with young uprisings, without the police and the army on your side. Remember our 'take-over-the-square?'

   The uprising in Tahrir Square, Cairo, was betrayed too. They got rid of one ruler but succumbed to another from of despotism.

   And Amm-er-ica? 'Make Ammerica Great Again.'  This clearly involves a great deal of lying, sacking anyone who disagrees,throwing out people of other hues, reneging on welfare...

   Turkey? Clearly straying down a path of one-man rule.

   What about India then? When Modi turns a blind eye to the police being complicit in the injustices against the Muslims/ Christians, I call that tyranny. The exercise of power without accountability. Hopefully India's democracy will show Modi the door in the next elections.

   Also what is this Hindutva nonsense about slaughtering cows, eating beef etc? Surely it is up to each family to decide what is cooked in their kitchen? Similarly, why should any government concern itself with the sexual practices of consulting adults in their own private space?

   Tyranny at the workplace, sometimes, but not always in the form of sexual harassment, is familiar to many. This is not just in the media and entertainment world. I was a common, garden teacher and had to fend off my share of unwanted groping men and their nonsense-talk. 

   Then there is the sub-culture in an office. Everyone knows how it works, but it is not written down anywhere. It is defined by what you have to do and who, or which group of people, you have to please, to progress in your work.

   Within the family also a kind of tyranny rules: among partners who threaten or shout at their wives/ husbands, children who terrorise parents by refusing to abide by any rule that makes it possible to share a home...

   Which of these shall we call tyranny, and which just bad behaviour?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

First Day At School

Never post in haste, they say. You might change your opinion, or be short of facts. So, I watched the news and did some thinking.

That little boy George. Prince George - Winsome. I wish him well with his school-life and all else.

   BUT - why the hell do I want to know who held is hand for his first day at school? I would think we should spent our time thinking of more immediate matters - like the plight of refugees from Syria and the Rohingas. We should spare a thought for the catastrophe in the wings when BREX-bloody-IT is done and dusted.  The Tories lie so much, we may never even know when it actually happened. 

   We should be really concerned about what the hurricanes are doing to the West Indies and parts of America. And how the Grenfell survivors are coping. Or not.

   And the power-grab. How are we (Labour) going to prevent it when we are short of a vote or two in Parliament behind us, and the Tories will close ranks as always when their sinecures are tested. There is much talk on the media (Norman Smith has not stopped pontificating, or looking where he can hang some of the chaos on to the back of Labour,) but Theresa May blunders on, blinkers in place and imagination switched off.

   Back to first days at school: I remember the day I took Asha, my granddaughter, to the local nursery ten years ago on a December morning. We had arrived from Kenya after ten years. Our wardrobes were not quite English winter. Asha insisted on wearing her gold strap-sandals anyway. I stayed with her that day, through the compulsory morning-break for half-an-hour.. When our hands froze, I got us inside a dilapidated phone-box in the playground. 'I am freezing,' the little one said matter-of-factly. So she put her hands in my coat-pocket.

   And her father? Like so many fathers hers had buggered off within a week of her birth. Mother HAD to earn a living and had to be in London by eight in the morning. So I was in charge. I think, today, of all those single mothers with no help, no money to buy new shoes or coats, and Mrs May threatening all sort of school-disasters. I have no time to think of Price George.

   As for third in the line of succession, I am quietly hopeful that will become irrelevant when our Queen gives up. Can you imagine the rest of that lot in charge of our nation's Royal heritage?

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Royal Expectation

Babies are wonderful things - another one, anywhere, and hope springs up even in my old, beleaguered psyche. I believe birth is nature cocking a snook at death.  Wonderful.

   Catherine Middleton and William are having another baby. I am glad for them. No doubt William will donate the entire privy purse coming to that baby, to Centrepoint.

   However, when I see the obligatory simpering of the newscaster announcing this news, I feel like throwing something at the TV screen. Lots of women have babies all over the world, many have extreme 'sickness'. Haven't they noticed?

   Recently we have had royal overload on TV. Diana and the princes and ... What is brewing? I wonder.

   The numbers of the homeless in this whole happy realm of ours climbs by the minute all over the cities, and now the smaller towns up north as well.

   As an old woman, I having a sneaking admiration for the queen. Her persistence and obstinate ideas about duty and loyalty. But I keep hoping that soon, when her reign comes to an end, the country will give the Royals a pension for two generations or so, and quietly forget them. It worked in India - all those Maharajas and ranis have disappeared into politics, Hospitality business (all those big palaces are useful after all.) or simply faded away.

   We cannot feed our people:

   The food banks are doing brisk work, filling up the hampers. Mothers eat less to keep the children fed. School-meals are threatened by the Conservative government. 

   All the tax-payers' resources should go towards housing and feeding our folks, not propping up the monarchy.

   And then - there is not enough money for the police, the NHS, schools, prisons. I don't need to spell this out.

   I am a republican and don't believe in monarchy anyway. But when things are so dire for many in this country, for Heavan's Sake!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Monster

I have never seen a steam-iron like this monster. It spews steam and venom, hisses like an inconvenienced cat, and breathes fire every half-minute as it gathers itself for another attack on my tender susceptibilities.

  And it is BIG! The size of a small dog almost. We shall need an extra room to store it. I'm scared of it and when my daughter is ironing, I keep a safe distance. I keep a safe distance from ironing anyway, due to congenital laziness. I was not born to this.

  In our house in Thalassery, when I was a little girl, we had no iron at all. Devi, the maid, dumped our washed clothes on a vacant bench in Achamma's room and we children just pulled out a school-dress as we heard the sound of the jutka (horse-drawn carriage) trotting up to our house. If we were late, the Jutka-man would simply give the mare a little encouragement on its haunches with the whip, and she would rear up and gallop off.

  The clothes smelled of the rice-starch Devi used on the dresses and when she was really enthusiastic, the dresses could probably stand up on their own.

  Somewhere along the line, we acquired an old iron, much abused. From the junk-room, I think, and there was a good reason it was there. The lid of the iron did not hold and it had a habit of dropping the smouldering charcoal on pristine mundus. The maid generally put a piece of cane on the bolt on the lid to prevent coal escaping, but the stick sometimes let you down, sliding off, breaking up... We, children, were not allowed to go near it for obvious reasons.

  As we got older and began noticing the well-turned-out girls in school, who actually had mothers and such like (mine had been dead a long time) my cousin Mani and I conspired to get our hands on the treacherous iron. BUT -  the iron needed charcoal, generally made from coconut shells. The coconuts had to be really dry before the shells could light up; so we would have to wait till the kitchen used a properly dry coconut. This could take weeks. 

  Getting the iron ready was quite a process. First you set the coconut shell on fire till it blazed. In about five minutes the flame would die down leaving bright red charcoal. Then the charcoal could go straight into the innards of the iron. It would stay hot enough to iron for about half an hour; after that it would need a complicated refill.  Mani and I gave up and settled for unironed clothes.

  These days I sit back and watch the iron glide on clothes. which will be worn for a few months and after, donated to charities. I remember the time when I had two dresses for school and just getting them dry for wear in the monsoon season was a house-hold challenge.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A very proud Labour Member

Today I was very proud of being a member of the Labour Party. I was proud of my leader. I was proud of that amazing manifesto!

  After the local elections a few weeks ago, I was thrown - felled down. Stopped talking and it takes a great deal to silence me, as you all know.

  But today, I applaud that manifesto. I remember the United Kingdom, to which I migrated in 1774. My children went to Universities and qualified without me having to pay fees from my meagre teacher's salary. I did not take that for granted because I came from India where only the rich can afford higher education.

   And I remember, with gratitude, the times I have been to my G P and the clinic without having to pay for every visit, every prescription. I am Indian by birth, by culture, by habit. But I loved the freedom of the individual in Britain, which I enjoyed without question. MAGIC!

  But, today, I listened to the Labour manifesto unfold and the hairs on my arm stood on end. If only I was young enough to door-step, to go husting...  LABOUR DESERVES TO GOVERN.

  At my age (82) I am expected to be right-wing, Tory, 'I'm-alright-Jack' pensioner. Not a hope. I am financially comfortable, but I would gladly give more than my biblical tithe, to restore this country to what it tried to be not so many years ago. My children feel the same.

  I still hope the country will see sense and vote Labour. But even if it takes time, years, to turn the population around, this dream of Labour's WILL come to pass.

  So Tories, fox-hunters and hedge-funders, beware. Your nemesis is approaching. Find corners to hide in your mismanaged academies, in the corridors of your rarefied grammar schools and your tax havens. BE GONE.


Wednesday, 3 May 2017


I cheated. Yesterday. If not saying the whole truth is cheating. Also, these blogs, till the 8th of June are about our election, about telling a few people at least that the Tories are a huge scam that we have succumbed to for seven years. So I didn't think my personal angst was pertinent.

   But, on second thoughts, I know, first-hand, what it is to feel there is nowhere that is yours.

   My second visit to England was in February, 1974. This time I came alone. I was running away from my marriage and looking for a place to be, where no one would ask any questions. Coming down the steps of the plane that brought me from Ndola to London, the metal grabbed my hands, it was freezing. I was wearing summer clothes: no coat, no socks, no gloves. When I hit the tarmac the wind nearly blew me away. Fortunately my friend, Alda, met me and took me to her brother's warm and welcoming home.

   I stayed there for three days. I needed a job and a place to live. A friend said North Thames Gas was taking temps, so I applied. I got a job answering the phone and filling up forms for connections and disconnections as people moved in or out of their territory. My pay was 59p an hour and there was a room to rent near by on Lower Mortlake Road. Bliss! Or so I thought.
   Alda had also arranged for me to meet a Head Teacher in Essex who needed Maths staff. But that was weeks later. I had to make a one-room home. I remember it was eight guineas a week rent. Two Irish nurses who worked freelance in care homes, a lovely Goan girl, Anne, and I made up the household. The owner lived in the attic upstairs - he was a bachelor and I soon came to understand he extracted rent in kind from one of the Irish girls when she could not pay in cash.

   For heating you needed 50p coins for the tiny radiator in the room. You had to sit very close to it.

   We shared kitchen and the one bathroom. We had to play Box and Cox as the bath-water got colder by the minute and the grease-line broadened in the bath tub. I would sit in the tub and use a large mug to wash, no self-respecting Malayalee could possibly bathe in a tub!

   I believe the only reason I took the teaching post in Wickford was because there was a council house attached. That rare thing that is so hard to find these days. But, till the Essex Council located a flat in Laindon I was a lodger on Southend Road. House rules were that I must not close my bedroom door when sleeping - the landlady was recently widowed and lonely. She would walk in at odd hours of the night wanting to talk and cry. I never had the heart to ask her to leave me alone.

   I was allowed nine inches of bath water, but then I never told her I didn't do her kind of baths.

   I took piles of exercise books home and marked them sitting propped up on my over-dressed bed. It was all pink nylon and needed to be burnt as an act of kindness to the environment. On Sundays I would walk around looking for an empty house, room, storage box to live in - anything.

   Meanwhile, after six months the Council found me a flat in Laindon. It was in a 14-storey high-rise monstrosity, which locals had nick-named Suicide Flats because so many tenants jumped out of the windows and topped themselves in sheer desperation. There was a lift, which usually stank of urine and stale beer, so I walked up and down to my third floor rooms.

   Second-hand furniture for the bedroom cost 15 pounds and my caretaker slavaged dining chairs and two old wing chairs which someone had thrown away near the bins. But I was happy. I had Terry Wogan for company till I went off to the bus stand in the mornings, and the local scalawags in the evening, neighbourhood primary school children who I taught to read, while their parents were at the pub. They called me their 'teach' and rewarded me by generally 'looking after' me. They accompanied me on trips to Basildon market and crowded in on the living room, uncarpeted floor with their gossip and careless affection. I was blessed.

   No home since has meant more to me.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

They need Homes

At the end of the day, we need a place to go to. As of right. All of us. Where we know we can go back daily and feel secure.
   All those sleeping rough all over our country are our responsibility. The Tories can do nothing for them because they are seen only as a blot on the landscape. The Tories have never cared,

   We need those 500,000 homes, which Labour has promised to build in the first year, to house these young men and women, these abandoned people of all ages. A place where they can all find shelter, a warm room and a welcome. People to talk to and help.

   Even animals need shelter. WE NEED A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT. We don't need  'a bloody difficult' Prime Minister.

   The Tories, indeed, are the blot on our landscape, on our national consciousness.



Monday, 1 May 2017

Food Banks amid wealth.

I am paranoid about access to food. Probably the result of living through the war-years in Thalassery. My father had gone off to jail because he did not approve of the British Government and wanted them to quit India. He had bad habits like organising public meetings and processions at a time when meetings of more than five people in public was banned by decree of the colonial masters. He was in jail for about two years. I was seven when he went.

   He was the only bread-winner in our household. There was myself, my two cousins not much older than me, and a spinster aunt. A niece of father's, Nani edathy, cooked whatever there was to cook: mainly moong in many enterprising ways and rice three times a day. Morning and evening it was conjee- rice in its liquid cooking starch, and afternoons it appeared as rice with a catch-all curry called Sambhar, into which dhal and all kinds of suspicious leaves and vegetables went. It was tasty and I love it still. A lot of love went into it because Nani knew how to love.

   At the end of the day, there would not be much food left for Nani edathy, the niece. I would find her scraping the bottom of the rice pan to get a decent serving. Scraping gently so that neighbours would not know there was food shortage in the lawyer's house.

   So, when I see those empty fridges and larders in the homes where women are forced to go to the food-bank for just enough to eat, I feel a tremendous sense of failure about the Tory Government. And anger. And we are supposed to be the sixth richest country in the world.

   Where are those riches going? And who is responsible for this terrible inequality? Why has this ridiculous government abrogated its duty to its less rich people.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Calling Time on May-hem's Tories.

I came to the U K in 1967, for the first time. My husband and I, together with two sons and an 18-month-old daughter were coming away from Eastern Nigeria in a hurry. The Biafran civil war was getting uncomfortably close, and the harassed government in Enugu could not protect us. The British Government advised us to leave, pronto. They gave us a visa in all of 24 hours and we landed at Heathrow on a May morning, my birthday it was.

   My little girl was sick, so we took her straight to the Paddington Green Hospital as soon as we had dumped our suitcases in the dilapidated bed-and-breakfast room we had booked on Edgeware Road.

   The infant had high fever and she was not eating. The hospital took her in and arranged a room downstairs for me to stay in the night. I would wander up in the night to the ward where she slept and stay with her.

   It was a urinary infection and she got better soon. Now, I thought, there was the hospital bill to pay and I dreaded the sight of it. When I went up to the cash-counter to pay, the woman smiled. 'Nothing to pay,' she said looking at my worried face.

   I thought the NHS then (in 1967) was a service for any country to be proud of, and I have not changed my mind since. It is still a wonder of the world. We can't let the Tories dismantle it piece by piece and hand it over to the businessmen to profit on.

   All of us have sick people, old people, and the disabled in our families and amongst our friends. We can't allow the cold-blooded Tories throw our precious health-care away. It took a long time building.

   Let's call time on a government that has no compassion. NOW!

Friday, 28 April 2017


I am sure many people feel as I do - frustrated, angry and disbelieving, as the Tories treat the electorate with contempt, refusing to tell us what their plans are for education, health, taxation and other issues. 
   We get snippets: triple lock on pensions to go, grammar schools threatening to aggravate already burgeoning inequality of talent and opportunity, NHS to be slowly destroyed, sold off to private enterprise or just cut to pieces.
   So this is my little voice trying to reach the befuddled electorate. I intend to write one short blog and copy it to twitter and Facebook every day till June 8th.
   We can't let the MAY-hem destroy our future. Please share with all your friends and whichever part of the electorate you can reach. WE CAN DO IT as a very good and great American President said.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Bully Boys

Two bully boys, equally ignorant and fixated on themselves, facing off at each other on the school playground. Let's hope somewhere in the background there are a few wise men and women holding them back.
   One shows off his Mother-of-all Bombs, the other watches his army goose-step with all his metal on show.
   And where is the Headmaster in Turtle Bay doing meanwhile? Keeping Schtum. When did this person get so emasculated? The boys show off their muscle in Pyongyang and Afghanistan and the headmaster looks away. He has no answers.
   The press thinks it is a news bonanza for them. They lost touch with reality a long time ago.
   Let's hope our PM will stay away from this playground fight.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

To Face or not to Face.

'That is the question.' I did not take any notice of Facebook until I went to India some ten years ago and my somewhat-younger-than-me aunt complained that she couldn't get news to me or of me unless I put myself out there on FACE. So, after considerable heart-searching, I did.

   And yes, Facebook is how I know what is happening to my Indian family. Births, deaths, marriages, jobs, get-togethers... Sometimes I have a sense of loss in that I am never part of any of this, that I don't even know the new generation - confident, up-beat, seeking enjoyment, having fun, in ways my generation would never have imagined. For instance, we did not go on holidays, we just went back home to family when we had time.

   But now, I am getting more than a little upset about the presumptuousness of Facebook, the intrusions, the constant heigh-ho about birthdays of friends and acquaintances. So I made some rules of my own: I never respond to birthday prompts, I don't distribute friend-lists or seek friends...

   I quickly erase the year-in-reviews and the unsolicited photos after they put up the photo of my son, who had died recently. It took me many days to get over that unexpected image. Leave me alone, I think.

   The adverts annoy me, there are so many. The suggested posts and suggested friends irritate me. But I get priceless information about close friends and family.  And there is the rub. I can't get rid of one without losing the other.

   Fake news Trump style too. And sometimes THEY take me straight to a porn site. It would be large on my list to not see any news about Trump or BREXIT for a week or two. One way would be to abjure ALL screens for that time. Now, there's a thought. My kind of Lent.

   So, for the moment, it's on with FACE for a while longer, but it's on probation. Watch this space, as they say.