Boo boo in select company

Boo boo in select company
Something to say?

Monday, 18 November 2019

Girl, Woman, Other -- What a book!


Girl, Woman, Other  by Bernadine Evaristo – A review by Anand Nair

I read this book in two days and towards the end, I was rushing, I couldn’t wait for the next exquisite page, experience, tongue-in-cheek comment on our British society of the twenty-first century, some of whose people are living in a time-warp, scattered over the last seven decades, more or less.
Evaristo’s world is a black world, mainly black female, refusing to be labelled, boxed and stowed away. A day after I finished reading the last page, I started all over again. I do re-read books that I enjoy, but this is the first one I started again a day after I finished it.
Twelve very different women stride these pages with authority. They are the immigrants, mainly from West Africa. their descendants still carrying the handicaps of being ‘other’ in a monochrome fifties Britain. Then they grow, blossom, stake out their territories, artistic, social, sexual or otherwise. They do this with panache, conviction and humour. Men, step aside for a moment, we have a few things to say.
Evaristo’s writing is sharp, wise and mocking. She takes British attitudes to black apart and puts them together in new patterns. There are the women producing plays and battling their way up in the West End jungle, the young girls trying to survive in an more-or-less white campus, and all trying to revel in their sexuality, as varied as their origins. Evaristo follows the hilarious, aspirational, glorious, agonising lives of twelve black women through the fifties and sixties and into now.
What a surprising, heart-warming, glorious, multi-tale!



F... Business

Johnson, disheveled, more so than usual, faced the CBI today. He looked uneasy, stammering too. More and more, I look at him and think, This is our Prime Minister? Which long-ago box in the attic did we pull him out of?
  Corbyn made a well-reasoned speech to the CBI about the need for a second referendum. The leavers of 2016 didn't sign up for a collapsing industrial base and a broken economy, he argued. Again. All CBI wants is a quick resolution of Brexit and throw the bottom of the pot out.
   Arcury surfaced again, but Johnson is not likely to lose any sleep over that tidbit. She is one of many such peccadilloes, we are told, though evidence is still forthcoming of the ones in the shadows. Johnson ruffles his straw hair forward, hides a moment behind it and then looks at his audience. Like a lost little boy. Contrived, I think.
   Meanwhile we have the little schoolgirl in another shift-dress, making her pitch. Lib Dems are the party of business, she insists. If nothing works, a coalition with Tories would let her breathe the sanctified air of the cabinet meetings. And Chuka Umunna would be right there advising her on what to say and what not to say.
   A breath of fresh air is needed. I agree, F... Business!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Lying is a Habit

I have come to the conclusion, watching Boris Johnson duck and dive at questions, which he is not comfortable answering, that lying is an acquired skill. He is trying hard but he is too lazy and incompetent to do it properly. When he lies his body language, his stuttering, hemming and hawing, give him away. 'Go back and repeat that,' I feel like saying to him. 'That's clumsy.' Teaching habits don't die after all.
  At the moment he churns out lists of things his Government is going to do. 30 million trees a year. That's a lot of trees. I can't see him out there with shovel and spade. I can't see Gove there either. A few lessons from Corbyn would come in handy.
  The Press is gleeful - Johnson has gone up a few points in the polls (which are mostly fairy stories anyway.) This was achieved by dropping Farage in deep nitrogenous stuff. (Couldn't happen to a nicer person.)
  Give them time, I think, and the two will destroy each other. They might even do it without help from anyone at all. There's Cummings, his poltergeist, at Johnson's shoulder, remember.
  I wonder -- will we hear about the alleged bribery of Brexit candidates any time soon? Or will it go like the Russia Interference report?
  Our Press has a great deal to answer for.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Priti Patel at her very Smug Best.

Trust Priti Patel to add shabby to confused. What are the immigrants already here to think? Who will be welcomed and who tossed out? Who are the folk who have lived here for decades that are being shown the door?.And the fast-tracking of NHS personnel that Johnson promises -- from where, how many and how soon? Above all what happened to that magic figure of £350,000 million a week floated around by the Leave lobby at the referendum? May did not deliver that to the NHS and Johnson's word is not worth a roll of school toilet paper. The kind like tracing paper which can't wipe anything, leave alone a baby's behind.
   So, today the figures show that A and E waiting times are becoming more lethal with each passing month. Patel can mutter and mumble about immigration all she wants, but the country is concerned about our very special NHS, not the immigration figures right now. Aside from the A and E, the waiting times have increased for everything else too: G P appointments, surgery, test results...
   The Tories are getting a little frantic. In spite of having the PRESS, Television, ONS, Yougov and lying pollsters on their side. A little honesty could come in handy.
   Today I saw a video of Corbyn hugging a woman whose house had been flooded -- she was trying to come to terms with five feet of water in her house. Can you imagine Johnson in that role? He wouldn't know where to begin. Cummings has no advice to give him on that matter because he is another geek bred to luxury. And Johnson has to get instructions from Cummings to breathe.
   I would love the Labour Party to win this election, but I am totally unaware about what the people think -- the obfuscation from the Press is too much. It is like the Tories are writing the headlines for BBC. SAD!!
   This country is desperate for change. I hope the voters realize that Tories will be 'more of the same.' We need Labour to execute policies that will provide more equality, more compasion, and more hope.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

My sedentary contribution to the Labour election effort - 1

The one above means that I intend to write a blog every other day; so there will be many more. In the 2010 election I went door-stepping near by my house in posh-Purley all on my own. The dogs barked at me and I retreated in a funk. In 2017, I dropped a few leaflets off in the door flaps. Now I am too feeble to do even that. But I can sit on a chair and express my outrage.
   Yesterday the dirty double was completed -- and what a double. Johnson and Farage. A serial liar and a racist. The racist changes his mind oftener than Chuka Umunna changes parties. And Trump holds the strings. Except for the knighthoods. Who holds the strings there? I wonder.
   I stopped looking at the BBC television news because the bias in favour of Boris Johnson and his Conservatives are so pronounced, I am near to puking. Sky is only marginally better, but there are a few honest journalist there occasionally.
   And as all this is going on, I am wondering about the men, women and children sleeping rough this month and onward in the freezing nights. I am also thinking about the mountain of unnecessary packaging, companies like Amazon and Aladdin will use, to distract from the cost of their goods. There will be tons of bubble-wrap and polystyrene all over the country and wrapping paper enough to build houses with. I wrote a blog about this last year, but my three-and-a-half readers can hardly change the world.
   I was in the West End a month ago and a mother and three babies were camping on the pavement;  the babies were all under five years in age. How did she feed them, bathe them, keep them warm? I tossed her some money to salve my conscience; she was too harassed to notice.
   Once upon a time we were a compassionate country. Now the inequality is obscene.
   Labour will redress the balance. We need the terrible Tories out. OUT. OUT.
   

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Booker Shenanigans

I started reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo day before yesterday and finished it at a gallop yesterday evening. It was clever, funny, informed,beautifully written, and brought the whole black experience in our country to life, tongue in cheek. Having lived in Nigeria for five years and in several African countries for a total of twenty-five years of my working life, the book was like going back home.
   A week ago, I read The Testament by Margaret Atwood. Apparently it shared the 2019 Booker prize with Girl, Woman, Other.  The judges decided the two books were so equal in literary merit, so inseparable in this respect, that they had to split the prize and give it to the two women equally.
   I read Booker shortlists as a matter of religion almost. As soon as the list is announced my son will find the lot and stagger in with them. And there have been serious disappointments along the way. Last year's Lincoln in the Bardo was a let down. I enjoyed The Fisherman by Obioma and Arundathi Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Very political, could do with a little less of that, but well-written and researched.
   This year I started with TheTestament. It is arid, directionless, with cardboard characters and situated nowhere. There are no real people or any real place. There is nowhere to go.
   Atwood's Handmaiden was just about readable. I didn't enjoy it, but sometimes I plod through books because I believe I should. I am too low brow, I tell myself; perhaps I need to get used to this level of affected gibberish. The TV series, which I didn't watch made it famous. Did viewers enjoy the titivation of strange sexual mores, situations and the abnegation of women?
   It was a great disservice to Girl, Woman, Other to be bracketed with The Testament. What an outrage!
   Margaret Atwood is in the rarefied company of Carey, Mantell and Coutzee, we are told, having won two Bookers. Those authors wrote books that remain in my memory. I re-read them and marvel at their skill. Atwood, I can pass on any day of the week.

Friday, 25 October 2019

My Social Media Day

Wake up at 6 a m to the radio 4 news. Comfort myself that there are fewer lies than on B B C news on television. Contemplate the day ahead, but it won't go away, so decide to face it. Find the kettle.

   With the first cup of tea bag comes the beginning of my dialogue with social media. On my e mail promotions are my daily doses of nonsense. First there is the funeral instructions -- how did they find out I was an old woman? That is followed by Harry's razor. I don't have a beard - yet. For heaven's sake. Then the one of Scamfuck. A bit late in the day; I am disgusted, but my Ad Block is clearly not working.

   What kind of e mails do I get? A few from my Writers' Group, which are routine, a few from another writers' group, which are reminders to get something written. I am not a 'write to order' kind of person, so those can be safely ignored. My banks from India admonish me about lack of transactions, threats to close my accounts down.  They'll save me the effort of doing it myself.

  I browse Twitter and Facebook in that order. Look at Peston and decide Lewis Goodall is more useful. Where are we with Brex-bloody-it? Hopeless. I give Andrew Marr a safe berth; can't stand his oily lies.

 I have a few friends on Facebook who send daily greetings and wise quotes. I don't open them. Wish they'd just fester like the rest of us, fuming and fretting. I hate even more those posts of flowers and candles and ceremonial altars. Then I have the instructions: wish so-and-so a great birthday. Now I don't send birthday greetings to anyone Facebook has thrust in my face. Cheek! I wish there was a way of getting rid of Facebook and yet keeping in touch with my family in India. They are all there on Whats App and Facebook.

   Occasionally Facebook treads on my memories, mangles them, makes me sad. Who gave them the license?

   I get my own back on the media by cursing the Tories with vigour.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

A single-mum's day

A SINGLE MUM'S (my daughter's) DAY

Today is D I Y day again, this time a bedroom is at risk. All the old cup boards and the wardrobe have been broken up and pulled out, and now recline in various positions, a little like Jacob Rees-

Mogg, on my back-patio.
   The cushions for the sitting room are done and already bear the imprints of my head, the cats, the dog and my books. The remotes for the T V are in the crevices. Good place to be as I don't need to search anywhere else.
   In between, the woman of the household cleaned and disinfected the cat pee. Pepper, our black-and white cat, which actually has a brain, (unlike Boo-boo, who is a large brain-dead fur-ball) had a confrontation with a big vehicle, some years ago, which she lost. She was a year old and pee is something she has no control over. She's pretty good, especially in finding me when I go to bed, to make me feel she absolutely adores me. This is a myth -- what she wants is a prolonged scratching of her chin and neck, to the accompaniment of loud purrs.
   The woman, my girl, then sat down and had a good cry over the lorry deaths, cursed Priti Patel and the Tory Government, and made me my third cup of tea. (Few more to come.)
   Later she will drive her teen daughter to Beckenham, to a friend's house, about 45 minutes each way, for a dose of half-term titivation.
   Meanwhile, what did senior Nana do?  Faffed around the garden after the gardener, watched the Brexit parade and gave staunch advice to daughter as she worked. I am good at that. Advice is normally largely ignored.
   It is a busy day. We have to get back in time to watch Liverpool play Napoli. The Press keeps telling us we have a poor away record. True, True... I wonder --  however did we win the Chaampions' Leagues last year?
   

Monday, 12 August 2019

Climate Disaster and Waste

When you have a grandchild, who is, as usual with grandchildren, rather more precious than she needs to be, you have to think seriously about what her world will be in two or three decades when her children occupy their habitat. And whose is this habitat, anyway? Surely not just for the human animal, when there are so many more animal and other species to cherish.

   Even in my household we cannot achieve the simple objective of each person doing their best to avoid plastic waste, for instance. My daughter and I religiously use our reusable shopping bags when we buy groceries, but my son forgets every time. Similarly, we order our milk in glass bottles, but I break one or two every now and then. That is my senile clumsiness. My son wants us to go back to plastic bottles and we had a small civil war over that. Mind you, he generally does the cleaning up, frig, floor and all over the kitchen when I shatter another one and has good cause to be angry. But the bigger picture in my mind will not allow plastic bottles again. I break a lot of other things as well. Mugs, jars... My sense of space appears dismal, so I don't drive very much these days either.

   Apropos of waste, I consider all the things we now consider routinely essential, compared to fifty years ago. Indeed I remember my surprise when I asked an American friend, in 1985, what she missed most in the African bush, while working in Makeni in Sierra Leone, she said it was disposable kitchen napkins. Jesus wept!

   I am no less guilty -- I am aware of all the things I take for granted in this junk-filled planet, which I managed without in my life in Thalassery, during the forties and fifties.

   In Thalassery, salt and sugar and such like came wrapped in old newspaper. Rice came in gunny bags. There were no ready-made clothes in the shops, so we bought cotton material and the tailor made my skirts and blouses. We had just enough clothes to get by. Now, if I go to our wardrobes, (wardrobes? That itself is a new concept.) I find the clothes crushed into the spaces, hangers doubling up for existence. We clear excess out every month and the Heart Foundation man takes away several cartons of clothes. But we seem to just replace the ones we give away.

   There is the other junk too. Birthday gifts and Christmas rubbish, Mother's Day and all else in the year. I have banned gifts and told my children to give the money to Shelter. They are not impressed.

   This is just a beginning of my waste-wail. More to come. I'm sorry, but this occupies a good deal of my withered brain-space. Till next week when I shall moan and murmur again.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Make Britain 'GREAT AGAIN'

Boris Johnson flinging his arms about instead of his hair. claiming to be the spokesman for the many, bracketed on either side with Sajid Javid and Rees-Mogg, two true representatives of 'the many!' We are going to get a golden age and we will be the most prosperous nation in the world.

   Boris is looking like a pantomime act. May has declined the role of cruel step-mother, and Hunt has disappeared into the woods. Words pour out of the blonde head as though a switch has been thrown. Rees-Mogg pulls his shoulders in prissily now and then -- he must be in fear of those flailing arms. He is a man who has always found safe haven in the back benches, plotting coups and generally keeping a safe distance from the hurleyburley. Many wonder as we watch -- how did we get ourselves here? led by a clown with a following of bag-carriers, who will carry bags for anyone.

   And then I remind myself: we voted this monstrous Tory government in, just as the other horror was voted in by the American people. I worked with many young American here and there and I cannot remember a racist, sexist or elitist among them.  If there were they had the grace to be well-hidden. So who spawned these aberrations? Trump and Johnson.

   I am surprised at the fawning tones of the back-benchers. After the cull yesterday, I thought there would be some fight in them. But it appears they are all cowed.

   Corbyn is measured in his disapproval and anger, but the Liberal-Democrat leader, Jo Swinson wants a no-confidence drama, which we have no chance of winning. Grow up, Woman.

   And I wait for the country to start taking notice. Don't wait for the press , though. No good news from them. Johnson is one of their's, remember.

  

Friday, 19 July 2019

GO BACK, GO BACK, GO BACK TO WHERE YOU ONCE BELONGED.

Racism as a topic of conversation appears unavoidable at the moment. It's all over the world, spreading like an epidemic of nastiness.

There is Trump's cesspit, and that sewer he promised, in 2016, to clean up; there are whole areas of the world from which the distressed are fleeing, including people being denied citizenship in the north-east of India, though they have lived there for decades. And all over Europe, many countries are turning their faces away from the sad and lonely refugees looking for a place to be. 

I am an immigrant too, I remind myself. I came to the UK in 1974, when attitudes to foreigners were more antagonistic, but I didn't notice the hostile environment, which shouted at me from buses and public places to go away. I got a temporary job at the North Thames Gasworks near which I lived, at fifty-nine pence an hour. Within three months I was offered a job teaching Mathematics at a school in Essex.

I had difficulty finding accommodation; most bed-and-breakfast landlords did not want black, brown or animals.A friend of mine put me up in her home for a weekend and then found me a place to stay with a Goan man. It was a tall townhouse and we were two Indians and two Irish girls. Apart from the days on which rent was due once a week I didn't see him. Rent was nine Guineas a week for a room with no heating, a shared kitchen and bathroom and practically no furniture. When the other girls came to chat we sat on the floor, near the gas metre, which consumed fifty pence coins greedily, while we brewed cups of tea on my kettle. Milk was kept cold on the window sill. Sometimes that worked.

Dinner was bread and jam with that tea. Baths meant trying to keep clean in four inches of tepid water. But, in school, I was treated with respect and camaraderie. My accent was, of course totally alien and I heard things wrong too.But it was all good natured. In Wickford where I worked I had a tiny, warm, box room and I was happy. Piles of Maths exercise books sat on my two-and-a-half foot bed.

My daughter was called a chocolate drop in school and I was Paki on the streets. Considering the state of alienation between India and Pakistan that was a joke.

Now I suspect much of the Brexit fever in the north of England is closely allied to the fear of the 'other.' They are willing to suffer financial collapse to get rid of the foreigner. Theresa May's hostile environment and those despicable slogans on buses failed to take into account the contribution made to the society by Asians, Eastern Europeans and all else who have come here to make a living, or to escape torment.

Modi's casteism  is like a malignant growth on the body-politic of India. The tragedy is also that so many of my educated, kind Indian friends can find nothing wrong in this policy. I suffer because, from day to day, I have never had a religion or caste to call my own. I gave all that up before I started wearing long skirts to school in India. I had a no-nonsense father to thank for that.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Cricket and Me

CRICKET AND ME


I started playing cricket with the other urchins in the neighbourhood when I was ten years old. My cousin, Appuettan, cut the stem of a big coconut frond into the shape of a bat. (The bat lasted no more than three or four days till the soft wood split)  It was my job to weave a green ball out of the thin leaves of the palm, with a stone inside to give it weight. This was an essential skill learnt early in life in a household devoid of toys. A wicket was manufactured out of branches from the bushes at the back fence.

So I learned the language of the game: boundary, maiden, Yorkers (a bit unsure)... LBW was a bit of a mystery, but not so much as an off side goal in football. By the time I was fifteen I was an acolyte, listening to Swaminathan's perfect diction describing the exploits of Ben Hutton, Vioo Mankad and Vijay Manjrekar (the present Sanjay's father?) Five days glued to the black Bakelite box until one day, I connected it up wrong, and it went up in smoke and then flames.

There were no twenty-twenties or one-dayers then. Before the time of Kerry Packer and IPLs. And I still prefer the test form to anything else. Mind you, my little town in Kerala, Thalassery was always a sucker for cricket. It claims that the first local India versus English match was played in the big Maidanam in town. Since there was no stadium then, (there were enough Englishman to make up a team in that town) many a ball would have ended up skimming the top of the Arabian Sea next to the Maidanam. If the batsmen looked up from the crease Tippu Sultan's old fort loomed, with all the history of Dutch, French and British trade and shenanigans attached to it. The Sub-collector, the top British apparatchik in Thalassery resided in a magnificient bungalow on top of the fort too, ass always the British picking a high ground with a view of the waters.

The present World Cup is a bonanza for the likes of me. The garden, kitchen, books, all go on the back burner. I eat large numbers of biscuits and devour many cups of tea. I take loo breaks when a wicket has gone and the ads come up. Or between innings. I expect this is true of many men and women in India.

Cricket Season Sindabad!

Monday, 1 July 2019

Boo boo is in good company

Boo boo seems to be in excellent company. Except that the combination of Amis and Solzhenitsyn is a bit hard to take -- even for Boo boo. They put her to sleep as they do me. But I believe London Fields is the Amis book I most enjoyed.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

That Testosterone:

That thing that men are cursed with -- poor things--they have so much to contend with from the time they are born. Including higher wages for the same work, the lions' share of ruling positions in companies, and of course, the deprivation: no trump-like folks grabbing at their danglers.
  
  Semenya won gold, running. She is tall and swift; so let's investigate her. This black woman has no business to be so unbeatable. There must be something wrong with her. Let's drag her entire life into the public domain, mutilate her ego and destroy her.
   
   I hope we can apply the same measure to everything else in life apart from running. Let's put a cap on the height of baseball players; what is the 'sterone' making them reach the basket with just a tiptoe? In passing, if anyone has an I Q over a hundred, we should banish them from entering any competitive examinations, entrance exams to universities, for instance. How dare thy become so clever? A frontal lobe operation might restore the balance in this case!

  This is a topic that is dear to my heart. As I grew older -- and then even older -- I have wondered about the 'sterones' abandoning me, the libido draining away, the breast almost at waist level. And saddest of all, that nice tush on a man does not excite. Not even mild curiosity.
  
  I feel sorry for Caster Semenya -- the wolves are baying.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

A Start-Up


A Start-Up
Who said a start-up had to be all glitz and glamour and huge bank-loans to prop them up? I’m looking at a start-up, Indian style. No bank loans, no business plans, no publicity.
  Looking at, I said. Well, I had no choice. In Bangalore I stayed with my aunt, Baby, a beautiful eighty-something lady who is two years younger than me. (In many Kerala homes there is an obligatory BABY, who stays BABY into the fag end of life). And when I looked out of Baby’s front-window, there it was: the laundry, the SRI S R S Laundry, Washing, Iron, two lop-sided stars either end of the name.
  The entrepreneur was always busy when I got up in the morning and still busy when I closed shop for the day. It was a one-man enterprise. When the man finished work for the day, he closed the two green front panels of his ironing box, put a small aluminium padlock on and went away. Not much to lock up in any case. There was a power point on the ceiling of the container that he used, probably belonged to the house behind his ‘laundry.’I wondered whether his wife washed the clothes at home and he just ironed.
  He had his regulars. Two young men turned up with predictable regularity. One came on a bike with the laundry in front of his seat, the other had a moped, and his laundry sat on his pillion. They’d stop, hand over the clothes for ironing, and stay gossiping, one foot down on the ground. Meanwhile the laundry-man would be sprinkling water on the clothes and spreading them out to iron.
  The spot was a social hub – the men and women who came by congregated, talked to each other, while the owner-less dogs slept in the sun. From our house Baby always kept a share for the laundry man when we had special sweets. She’d call him over and pass the ladoos and jilebis to him through the iron railings of her house. When we had things to iron they were also passed through in the same manner.
  Ten rupees to iron a shirt? I wondered whether he made enough money to feed himself and his family, pay school fees for his children and the odd Bollywood blockbuster at the local cinema, of a weekend. This laundry-man is one of many cheeky start-ups in India who live from day-to-day, and make sure that their children have all the chances they didn’t have – the freedom to choose that comes with education.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019


A Tale of Two Indian Cities

In 1964, I fell in love with Bangalore. I lived for a while in a modest two-bedroomed house in the Cantonement area, once famous as a hunting ground for the British army, with a drunken brawl every night. Right in front of the house was a small park, and across from it the St Joseph’s school, which my niece, Geetha, then five years old, attended. Every morning and evening I escorted her to and from the school, in between times, stopping to enjoy the quiet and the greenery.
  I decided to buy a little house there but couldn’t get the money together, as always my reach far short of my grasp. I scurried around the town, shopping to take saris and sarongs back to Enugu, where I worked at the time. The obligatory Mahatma Gandhi Road, one of Bangalore’s main thoroughfares, was a beautiful street, with multi-coloured Cannas holding up their heads proudly, down the central reservation, for miles. Wherever I have lived since, I have started my garden with Cannas of all hues. I tried them out even in surly Purley, but they refused to co-operate.
  I have been back to Bangalore now and then since. I noticed that the decibel levels in the streets have gone sky-high, garbage has established itself in all available nooks and corners, and the community of half-starved pie-dogs slope around looking for offal. I spent eight days in the city in February, and was glad to escape with my life.
  In Bangalore, the pollution is not an insubstantial idea, it is a toxic curtain in front of your face. My friend, Sreelakshmi, is prone to wheezing; in Bangalore she gets Asthma within a day of reaching there. The residents complain that all the techies have two cars apiece, and they are all on the roads at the same time. People learn to meditate while the traffic tries to move.
  I was glad to escape to Madras (which is now Chennai) though most people of my generation still call it Madras. My first visit to Madras was when I was seventeen years old, representing my college at a debating competition. I hung around in the St Thomas Mount area, where the seat of the British Government had been, taking in the dignity and grace of the buildings. The High Court was a special favourite, I could almost forgive the British for hanging around in India, long after they had outlived their welcome, because of the majesty of that area.
  When I am in Madras, I live with my aunt and uncle in Adyar, a leafy suburb of Madras. How did it manage to have huge tracts of land devoted to trees? Driving in Adyar, you come across yet another mini forest every two minutes. The Annie Besant centre is here, with a wide, tree-filled compound; she tried her best to get beyond India’s repressive caste system, but the system was stronger, and had more patience.
  I can walk in the streets of Adyar without taking my life in my hands,; the traffic is sparse, slow and courteous. In the evening, as early as six, the birds are gathering, twittering in the branches of the trees, which form canopies over the traffic. Senior citizens like me can wander and ruminate.
  Even the pie-dogs look better fed and better-behaved.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Christmas Fatigue

It's over -- for this year anyway. Mind you, some friends suggested it should be banned for good, along with Black Friday and Guy Fawkes day...
  Being a pagan I am wary about saying these things out loud. Might upset the seriously Christian Christians, who sincerely believe in the seven days of creation, virgin birth, resurrection etc. And I am firmly on the side of anyone who can believe in ANYTHING that they can't prove, witness or explain. People with beliefs are, my Psychology teacher used to say, immune from scepticism in selected directions. A man HAS to believe in the fidelity of his wife, he used to say. He cannot make that belief negotiable. Everyone needs a few buffers.
  But now -- the lights on the tree are out. It is quietly counting down to Croydon's tree-clearers. My daughter's head has surfaced from the crepe paper, shredded paper, brown paper and cardboard of various provenance. The greeting cards are stacked, not displayed. We don't send any cards these days. The tree is our excuse.
  Our expenditure on the season was about a third of our usual annual indulgence. Yet Manju spent a whole three days wandering in Croydon's depressing shopping malls. I spent a few hours getting confused online by the number of different nameless junk on display. And safely settled for books. Predictable.
  We have fallen prey to the businesses -- they have conned us into more and more excess. Amazon is in full flow; you can have it the day before you order it -- almost.
  I ate so much on Christmas day at Mary's that I had to rest for three days after.
  BUT -- I enjoyed seeing my friends.