Monday, 31 August 2015

Kerala houseboat and Cochin

22-23 February
We strolled across the lawns of Coconut Lagoon resort to our Rainbow Cruise houseboat, manned by Captain Shilby and his crew Videsh and Benedict, who greeted us with coconut mojitos made with fresh coconut water. This was followed an hour later by a lunch of lake fish - Perfil Sopt - with spicy vegetables, including a strange looking one called Butta chaat, and rice.
After a post prandial snooze, our Captain asked if we would like some wine with our dinner. We agreed eagerly, only to find that this involved a walk along the river edge to find a rickshaw to ride to an ATM to take out money to pay for it.

En route we passed a Christian church where a saint's festival was being celebrated with drums and singing, and a procession under parasols.

Once back on board we chugged across Lake Vembanad towards the far bank, where we stopped to buy prawns for dinner: 5 huge langoustines for 1500R, about 23 euro.
lake sunsetWe moored alongside a grassy path, where we enjoyed a sunset walk, followed by the prawn dinner with fish, okra, rice, chapattis, vegetables, wine..... and bed at 9.00pm.
moored houseboat
At 07.00 we were wide awake and ready for our delicious breakfast of coconut and banana pancakes made with cumin, cardamom and sugar, mixed with ghee.
We passed miniature ghats (steps leading into the water) for washing clothes, tins, and people!

Keeping ducks is a popular activity here; I didn't want to know if they were pets or a food supply.

Early morning rituals began: people sat lazily on long narrow wooden canoes, cleaning their teeth in the river water.

The cruise along narrower channels, filled with boats, was fascinating, but by 0900 it was time to depart for Cochin by car. We felt sad that our cruise was over, and a bit disappointed that the 'two days' were really only an afternoon and short morning.

The car journey to Cochin was interesting but by now, on Day 13 of our India holiday, we'd had enough of bumpy road journeys. We arrived at 10.30am, too early to check in, so I asked our driver to take us to a spice shop, where I intended to have a look only. Needless to say I emerged an hour later some 70 euro lighter. The modern Eighth Bastion hotel was a pleasant surprise; we had a lovely room overlooking the pool. After a two hour relax our guide collected us for a car ride into Cochin. We paddled on the beach of the Arabian Sea, strolled around the Old Fort area, and watched in fascination as fishermen hauled in their catch using Chinese fishing nets

Our walk took us past the Dutch church, and through the fish and crafts markets. After a brief look inside the Dutch Palace and the Synagogue, we peeked inside a shop displaying a long snake boat with seats for 100 people.
The Kathakali dance is known as the 'stately dance' of Kerala.
job done
More like a play than a dance, it tells a story, whose moral is 'under any circumstances, evil should be punished'
Briefly, the story tells of a young man sitting in heaven's garden when he is duped by a beautiful woman who claims to come from heaven. But she is too eager for sex and this makes him suspicious. She grabs him and only then does he see that she is a demoness in disguise. He takes his sword and disfigures her, and she is sent away from heaven.
ready to dance

The make up the dancers put on takes two to three hours.
make up 2make up
Both dancers are male, and they transform themselves into mythical beings, especially when they put on their colourful headgear. It is certainly an unusual performance, and not to be missed.
After the dance, we headed around the corner to Cochin Fort restaurant for our last dinner in India: cashew naan, mushroom rice, spinach with potatoes, and a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

To see videos to accompany this post, please go to

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Black adder may go forth again

BLACK ADDER IS ON THE CARDS - the line read.

I would hate anyone to think that my pink halo is shining brightly as I have been reading a newspaper again.  According to Graeme Virtue (who) in The Guardian today there is a cunning plan afoot to take the cowardly Edmund and his bum-chum Baldrick into a different time zone.  Fascinating it could be as we could get out of that medieval rut (or perhaps, midden) and propel these two creatures back to Roman Times or bring them almost up to date into the flared trouser era of the sixties.  Anyway, you can read the article with all its ideas.
It seems to be that another choice could be to take that Oxbridge lot of cabinet and (yes) shadow cabinet boys and girls and see what script they could come up.  But who would be in charge? On the other hand you could leave it to the real working classes to come up with a mighty plot. I just hope that it happens.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Alternative Online Outlets for Buying Books

Press reports on Amazon’s treatment of staff escalated recently with a piece in the Independent about the Seattle head office and warehouse employee conditions in in the USA, following similar press articles in the UK.

Last Christmas an on-line petition garnered upwards of 40,000 signatories committed to shopping at alternative sites; on July  17 The Independent helpfully published a list of such sites – check it out via link below. LD

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Desert Island Discs

Ian explained that he had chosen this as a subject because music, in every form, played a part in all of our lives and lyrics, another form of poetry, contributed much to the music industry.

Although there was only a small number of members in attendance, the contributions were varied in the choices  of music which ranged from church music,opera,country and western, folk, modern day pop and what could be described as the classics of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Some of the contributions were a revelation and many provoked memories of eras past as well as sparking discussion on what was also popular at the time.

I think everyone enjoyed the exercise ad had found it difficult to restrict themselves to a choice of three pieces.

John D read out a poem which had won a competition in "The Oldie". It was about the use of modern technology and the unforeseen consequences. This was very amusing and enjoyed by all who thought it a worthy winner.

Lisa raised a couple of points which she wanted to draw attention to the first being an article on the way Amazon treated its part-time and temporary workers and the second was that of what appeared to be discrimination among agents/publishers towards male and female writers.

All in all a rather enjoyable meeting.

Ian C 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Poem By Potential New Member

New Friends by Lyn Bell

We sat down at the table, we didn't know a soul
But pretty soon we exchanged names over the starter and a crusty roll.

We talked about the journey and as the wine began to flow
We chatted away all through the meal until it was time to go.

When we arrived in Vigo, a new format had been set
We had gelled together as a group of eight, no greater company could you get.

There was Chris, who loved his sugar fix, and Helen who liked to tell
Her favorite joke, not once or twice, but again to explain it as well.

Along with me and Eric, who kept us supplied with wine,
Were Elaine and Ian from Scotland, and we all got along just fine.

Last but not least, a German couple, Gerd and Ulla, joined us also
And everywhere that Ulla went, her camera was sure to go.

Now, Gerd, we know, is a very busy man, for each time he finished eating
He would take his bag and disappear to yet another business meeting!

We all saw some lovely places, liked the boat trip very much
But the highlight was the friends we made and I hope we keep in touch.

Ian C

Thursday, 13 August 2015

August Writing Thought

A writer's aim should be to write a good story that people want to read,tell or hear.

Ian C

Quality Counts

Although the number attending this week's meeting was smaller than usual the quality of pieces written was again of a high standard. The written exercise was, "I write about..... because", the members were required to write about their favourite genre, style or both and explain why this appealed to them. The subjects were varied and ranged from humour to travel to life in general. Some contributors stated that their preferred style was of rhyming poetry while others found writing prose easier. A number of members also advised that their challenge was to write both. The exercise proved once again  what a diverse bunch of people we are but that the common thread was our love of writing.

Before the break we also had an oral exercise on concise writing where a phrase or sentence was read out  and the members had to convey the same meaning but in fewer words.

After the break there was more writing in the form of a hot pen when the word chosen was "hat". Again the contributions were varied with subjects including wedding hats, a hat museum and a busker in the street.

Looking forward to next weeks meeting when the subject is "Desert Island Discs" where members will reveal what three pieces of music means to them.

Ian C

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

I write what I write's ten minute writing exercise, unedited

I write travel articles because I love to relive experiences I've had, revisit places I've been, recreate moods I've felt, and get reacquainted with people I've met. It's not that I want to live in the past, because I have a strong belief that we create our lives second by second, a belief that is now backed up by the latest quantum theory research.
No, it is not to go back to the past per se, more to recreate it. Each time I write about say, a feeling, it is not exactly the same feeling as the last time, and certainly not as the original. It is with the heart of a different observer, a heart that has been renewing itself hundreds and hundreds of times since it first experienced whatever feeling I'm revisiting. The physical cells have been replaced by new ones (daily, I believe), so surely the feeling can't be exactly the same?
For example, the all-consuming, overwhelming excitement and exhilaration of tumbling out of an aircraft, wind rushing in my ears, the earth hurtling upwards, towards me, my entire body tingling, blood rushing through my veins....I feel it in my mind now, not in my body.
But every time I look up at the sky and think 'I've been up there', my stomach does a little flip and my face breaks into an involuntary smile. I'm reliving the past, but in a new present.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Monkeys are Made of Chocolate, by Jack Ewing

I loved reading this book. It was the first time I had read this genre and it definitely won't be the last. I didn't realise just how rich our planet is at all levels of life, and have been saddened by our devastating effect on it. Jack Ewing gives me hope; what a simple, great idea to create wildlife corridors! Jack writes with the easy confidence of a man who really knows what he's talking about, but with the humility of someone thirsty for ever more knowledge. I highly recommend this, and am about to purchase his next: Where Tapirs and Jaguars Once Roamed.
Message to the author: I have just finished reading Monkeys are Made of Chocolate and want to thank you for educating me about the biodiversity of the rainforest. I worked as a tour guide about a decade ago and often walked in the forest near Rio Negro in the Amazon area of Brazil, but I have learned more from your book than I did in several visits there.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wednesday 5th August

On a hot August morning we met again at Mil Palmeras.  Our numbers were reduced by members being inundated with visitors and with the luckier ones who had escaped northwards.  Those that remained took part in an entertaining couple of hours.  We heard some gems too.
Quotations were the subject and several had chosen their own and had written about them.  There was humour around the table and of course the endings were written with a surprise in mind.  One or two poetic attempts were surrounded by short stories.  One at least was on a personal level with one other ending with a 'cut throat'.  Apparently one 'too many' verbal ripostes can be 'too much for the back of the camel'.
Other quotations were introduced and they were a mix from Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wild right 'across the board' from 'being sent to Coventry' and two lines from a poem.  Everybody rose to the occasion and this should have been a good practice for next week's writing exercises.
We also had short discussions on the challenge to write 'Why Write', the value of editing and feedback.  I am looking forward to another good session next week.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah
(Published by Pan MacMillan)
This one starts with the discovery of bones revealed by a collapse of the sand. Mari Hannah's 'Monument to Murder' is another mystery for DCI Kate Daniels to unravel. This fourth book again brings Kate into a contest with the damaged individuals that have been conjured up in Mari Hannah's mind. As in the previous books there is the ongoing and under lying tensions within the murder room. The characters either bounce off one another or combine to form a team that knows how to get a result. They are not all perfect of course.

As in her other stories we see that there is a gulf of expertise between her staff and that of the lowly uniform 'plods' that sometime seem to be there just to be there to stand at a murder scene in atrocious weather or simply there to receive a rebuke. Is it fair to be spoken to like that? However some readers may enjoy that aspect of the story. There is one instance, beautifully written, where it is deserved, but really only one.

There are several threads to this one with some of the story set inside a prison. We get the details of what does go on and again she has characters, both inmates and staff, that lodge in our minds.
Violence seems to be an everyday occurrence.

The setting is wonderful as a body is found buried among the dunes below Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. Seemingly a magical setting and in full view of Holy Island. Is there any significance that can be attached to that?

The story is woven around the discovery of a life that ended years before to lay undetected for a decade. It is a fast moving plots that alternates between the outside world and that of inside a prison. There is more than one crime occurring in the course of this story.

Kate adds to her personal feelings of a past lesbian love and one that has still, or maybe not, to be allowed to happen or will the power that her job demands deny the love that she craves for. A great story and so well written. I enjoyed all of it and the best one so far. I still have one more to read and establish what Kate can achieve both in her private life and in her professional one. Can it get any better for her and the reader?