Saturday, 25 September 2021

Illumination

We are in the middle of a tropical storm at the moment, the full works with lightning and thunder so loud it is making Toby jump and bark even though he is practically deaf now. Although we need the rain badly for the reservoirs it is sod´s law as I was planning on going out to buy some lights today. 

These are the lights I have throughout the flat except for the kitchen and bathroom. There are eight of them and they are so high up that it is impossible to clean them properly. They are looking very grubby and changing a bulb is a balancing act on top of the ladder - I´m getting past the age for such tricks. They´ve been there for twenty years and I´ve decided it is time to change them all for something more practical. 


I really like my kitchen light which I installed a couple of years ago. It is easy to reach for cleaning and bulb changing. I want to try and get something similar for the rest of the flat, not all the same of course, but hopefully all equally practical. I was looking forward to my outing today until the heavens opened - oh well, maybe tomorrow!


Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Power cuts

I woke up this morning at six thirty to no electricity. I didn´t know if the problem was just in my flat or a general power cut. Anyway I decided to wait a while and see if it came back as it was rather early to ring the supervisor.

It is amazing how much we take electricity for granted. I had to really stop and think how to heat the milk for my morning coffee, normally I just pop it in the microwave . My stove is gas but uses electricity for ignition...what to do. It took a while for the penny to drop that I could use matches (duh!) and even longer to find some. Mission accomplished I went back to bed with my coffee for a nice read, as I usually do, except that it was not light enough for me to see the page properly as my Kindle screen does not light up. Grumble, grumble.

The lights came on a couple of hours later so it must have been a general power failure. We do get them occasionally but they don´t usually last long. I hope this is not a sign of things to come because our water reservoirs are very low, one is at only 25%, and this affects the power supply. What we need is rain and lots of it. Meanwhile I am getting in a supply of candles and more matches!

Monday, 20 September 2021

Out and about

I went shopping at another street market today, thankfully without incident. We have them every Tuesday and Sunday. This one is a bit further from home but still walk-able.


                                                                Before it got too busy.

                                                                        A few bananas!

I took my phone with me in order to take some photos, normally when I am on foot I don´t carry it as muggings for phones are commonplace. They have increased greatly ever since a new bank transfer app enables the mugger to force you to transfer money to them. In the last nine months there have been 160,000 phones stolen in the state of São Paulo alone. 

Going out and about is very necessary for me, not only for practical purposes like shopping but also for my sanity. After being confined for so long with the threat of Covid I need a change of scenery although things seem to be riskier than ever on the streets. I don´t want to hark on about crime but the following news item left me stunned. An armed criminal and partner broke into a house where the family was at dinner and fled with money, jewels and a car. They were subsequently caught and the police discovered the criminal was a convict, out of prison on temporary leave, who was serving thirty years for five murders!

´Nuff said...

Saturday, 18 September 2021

On becoming a vegetarian

I became a vegetarian for a couple of years in my mid-forties for health reasons after being diagnosed with MS, as a plant-based diet was supposed to be beneficial. Thank goodness it turned out the diagnosis was wrong and after living with that worry for two years I thankfully went back to a normal life and being a dedicated carnivore.

Fast forward to my 60´s and although still eating meat (mostly chicken) I was becoming more and more bothered about the way it was produced while at the same time I still enjoyed eating it. It was difficult to conciliate the two opposites.

I used to have a small studio apartment in Santos, on the beach, near one of Brazil´s largest ports where I went for long weekends or holidays. A few years ago, while I was down there, there was a problem in the port. There was a ship, fully loaded with live cattle for export to the Middle East which was held up for some reason. I don´t know whether it was a mechanical problem, red tape or something else but the poor cows were stuck in cramped quarters on board in soaring temperatures with inadequate care, food or water. After a few days they started dying and the bodies were being thrown overboard.

The stench emanating from the ship was so bad it was carried several miles to the beach where I was staying and it broke my heart to think about how the poor animals were suffering. I have never eaten meat since.

I may occasionally remember how much (like John at Going Gently) I enjoyed scotch eggs or some bacon in a quiche lorraine but I don´t really miss eating meat, the very thought of it makes me feel queasy.

 

 


Thursday, 16 September 2021

Bath time

How does he know? Toby does NOT like his bath. What I can´t figure out is how he knows what is about to happen before I have made any preparations whatsoever. He goes to ground under the bathroom unit and I have to ignore him until he thinks it is safe to come out...I won´t force him as he gets too stressed.


He went to ground there yesterday too when the vet made a house call to give him his annual shots, I should have closed the bathroom door before she arrived. She´s smarter than he is, though. She went out again and rang the doorbell so naturally he popped out to see who was there!

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

More about books...

As I have mentioned previously I do the majority of my reading nowadays on my Kindle. Books in English are expensive to buy here as they are naturally imported, which makes it rather costly when you get through two to three books a week! What I do is get my books from Amazon, from the 100 Bestsellers free list which is constantly updated. I do occasionally treat myself to a "good" book but usually go for the free ones.


This is my good old Kindle which I have had for many years. It has about 300 books on it, which I have read. I usually delete a book after reading it (after all they are free) unless it is exceptional good otherwise at some point I will run out of space. Amazon also has free travel books, some of which are worth reading.

I usually 'buy' about ten books at a time and get rid of those I realise I chose by mistake. There are a few readable books amongst the dross on the bestseller list and occasionally a real gem, it is knowing how to pick them - I avoid any with a cowboy in a stetson on the cover or a man with his shirt artistically unbuttoned, couples in a suggestive clinch, historical ones with the heroine wearing a costume from the wrong period, anything with 'hot' in the title (usually soft porn), witches, cosy mysteries etc. If the hero and heroine come over all unnecessary the first time they clap eyes on each other that is a no no too. All in all I usually manage to find a few worth trying and also of course there are the classics, anything out of copyright is free.

I think many of the writers are first-time authors trying to get a foot on the ladder of publication. Plots can be very repetitive, a favourite is...heroine discovers her boyfriend/fiancé/husband has betrayed her/died tragically so she flees to remote cottage/run down business/beach house fortuitously left to her by a distant/unknown relative, meets local handyman/vet/farmer with a troubled past...you get the picture. Halfway through the synopsis I know what is coming next and can´t be bothered to find out if I am right! Crime fiction, which I like, can be quite good if the author isn´t too fixated on gory detail.

All in all it is fun going through the list to see what I can find and over the years I must have read a couple of thousand books on my Kindle, I wouldn´t be without it.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Books

I have managed to reduce the number of books I have after some severe weeding out, but they still fill two large bookcases.


This is one of them, full of old friends I cannot bring myself to part with. Gerald Durrell, Georgette Heyer, Paul Theroux, Jodi Picoult, Rosamunde Pilcher, Jane Austen,  a whole shelf of books on Tibet and another on travel amongst many others. I have collected them over many years and although I mostly read on my Kindle nowadays I still re-read some from time to time.

It occurred to me the other day that when I pop my clogs all my books will probably get dumped, a sad end for them. None of my family are really readers and those who do occasionally pick up a book only read in Portuguese. There are no charity shops as such here where they could be donated, either.

Friday, 10 September 2021

An unusual syringe

I have finally finished administering the course of fourteen injections in my abdomen, which is now covered in bruises. Thank goodness that´s over.  The syringes I used looked very unusual, at least to me, I´ve never come across anything quite like them before. I am used to the common or garden type with a barrel, plunger and needle on the end. Maybe I am out of touch.


This is an example of a used one with the yellow plunger fully in. You buy them already containing the medication, ready to use. After giving the injection you give the plunger an extra squeeze and a tube shoots out to encase the needle. You can see the coils of the spring which causes this to happen in the photo. I can only imagine this elaborate precaution is because most homes don´t have a "sharps" container for the safe disposal of used syringes. Since you can buy over-the-counter disposable syringes in any pharmacy here that would seem to be overkill to me.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Never a dull moment

Well, yesterday seemed to pass off without too much trouble thank goodness. Here in São Paulo at least, the police managed to keep the opposing demonstrators apart by about two miles. What happens next remains to be seen. It is uncanny how the situation here appears to mirror what happened pre-election in the US. President Bolsonaro is an ardent Trump supporter...

Since the protests were happening some way away, my friend and I decided to go to the farmers market which is held on a nearby side street. The market is about three blocks long and the stalls run down either side of the road with a passage in between for customers to walk along and make their purchases. The road is naturally closed to traffic on market day.

I was selecting some fruit when I began to hear police sirens getting ever louder and closer until they sounded as if they were driving into the market. The sirens kept going and there was some sort of disturbance about thirty yards away in the middle of the crowded market. Suddenly we heard shots being fired. My friend and I took one look at each other, dropped what we were doing and walked quickly to the end of the market away from the disturbance, as did quite a few others. Some people, believe it or not, just carried on shopping!

We waited on a pavement sheltering against a wall behind a stall, wanting to know what was going on before risking walking home - after all you never know what you might walk into going round a corner and because of my op I can neither run nor fling myself under a stall table. More police cars appeared and started racing up and down the surrounding roads, evidently in pursuit of someone. 

It turns out the police were chasing two bandits on a motorbike, who tried to escape through the market. The passenger fell off and was captured and a policeman fired (in a crowded street!!!!!!) at the other one who was getting away. Whether he was caught or not I don´t know, we didn´t hang around to find out. There was nothing on the local news last night as, unless someone is killed, it is not considered newsworthy.


Monday, 6 September 2021

Independence Day

Tomorrow is the 7th of September, Brazil´s Independence Day. There are demonstrations planned for and against the President and concerns it will turn unruly and violent, a sort of Brazilian January 6 Capitol riot. Senior politicians both here and abroad are worried there may be some sort of coup planned

As a foreigner all I can do is stay home and keep my head down and hope it all blows over. With the current pandemic and climate problems we really don´t need any more turmoil.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Home again

Well, that wasn´t a barrel of laughs but I´m home now and recovering nicely. I must say the hospital vegetarian food was atrocious - fried rissoles and hamburgers which were dry as dust and almost impossible to swallow, accompanied by a boiled unidentifiable vegetable (pumpkin?), not a green leaf in sight. Just what is required to tempt the appetite of a queasy patient. My daughter, who stayed with me, was slipping me bits of her salad to keep me going!

Anyway that is all in the past now. Toby, needless to say, was delighted when I came home and is sticking to me like glue. The only fly in the ointment is that I have to give myself a daily injection in the stomach for 14 days. As a former nurse needles don´t bother me but it is a different cup of tea when you have to stick it in your own stomach. Still, eleven down and three to go...

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Busy, busy

It is surprising how many things you find you need to do when someone is coming to stay! One of my granddaughters will be here for a few days to look after Toby while I go for an op.

Naturally I want to leave the place nice and clean and tidy, larder stocked, Toby bathed, clean linen and towels put out, and so on. I have been pretty busy for the last couple of days but I think it is all done now thank goodness. No blogging for a bit though.

Friday, 20 August 2021

Pan bashing

At about ten o'clock tonight they started banging on saucepans with lids, spoons or whatever, standing at open windows or on balconies all around the neighborhood. The sound was very loud and clear. It is a form of protest against the president, especially when he is making a broadcast or being interviewed on TV. The loud noise carries and is indicative of the country´s mood as it happens nationwide, not just here. I don´t know what the specific reason was tonight as I have given up watching the news and TV in general, it is too depressing. I only hope that when change comes, as it surely must, that it happens in a peaceful and democratic manner. I lived through the years of dictatorship here as a teenager and it wasn´t the best of times.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Sunset


 As seen from my bedroom window today - the haze is pollution!

Monday, 16 August 2021

Friern Hospital

I worked in Friern Hospital in the ´70s for a year or so as a student psychiatric nurse. It was a mental hospital built originally in Victorian times as an asylum, and absolutely enormous. In the past it had been self sufficient with its own bakery, brewery, laundry and farm and several additional villas and had housed up to 2,500 patients. It reputedly had the longest corridor in Europe!

Quite frankly I did not enjoy my time there and gave up my course before qualifying. It was a pretty grim place and many of the patients had spent most of their lives there and were very institutionalized. If you had the time to chat to the patients there were some very sad stories as well as interesting ones. One very old lady had been seamstress to Queen Victoria and another, with a very upper-class accent, had run away from home to march with the suffragettes in London.

The hospital eventually closed down in the ´90s due, I believe, to the ´care in the community`initiative which meant many patients were discharged into the community and the demand for psychiatric hospital beds greatly decreased. While that sounds like a good idea I think many people fell through the cracks in the system. I can´t help wondering whether a thoroughly updated, bright and welcoming hospital  wouldn´t be a better and safer option for them, especially those living on the streets.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

A ghostly tale

To set the scene - swinging London, late ´60s. I was in my early twenties and had moved to Hammersmith  where I shared a ground-floor maisonette with two other girls. My "room" was actually a partioned off alcove next to the kitchen and I had been living there for a couple of months.

I was on my own one night as my flatmates were out gallivanting, and went to bed where I did some knitted until I felt sleepy. I stuffed the knitting into its carrier bag and slipped it under the bed where it would be out of the way and switched off my bedside light.

As I lay there drifting off to sleep I heard a rustling sound coming from under my bed. Being near the kitchen I thought maybe a mouse was investigating the carrier bag so I switched on the light and had a look but couldn´t see anything. This happened a couple more times until I got up and put the bag in my wardrobe. This all implies that by now I was wide awake. I tried to get off to sleep again but this time I was disturbed by a woman´s voice quietly calling my name several times, followed by the sensation of my bedclothes tightening over my legs as if someone had sat down on the edge of the bed.

Thoroughly frightened I leapt out of bed and ran around the flat turning all the lights on. It was cold as the heating was off by now so I got back into bed to keep warm and waited for my flatmates to come home. I must have dozed off eventually as I woke with a start to find one of them bending over me to turn off my bedside light.

The next day I told them what had happened to me and was told the following...

The maisonette was originally lived in by an old lady, who was on her own. Her only relative was a brother who was in South Africa. One day she fell down the cellar steps, broke her hip and died down there as there was no-one to hear or help her. She was found eventually but obviously it was too late. The brother inherited the property and was now our landlord.

My flatmates said they had both been through similar experiences to mine with the calling of their names and especially the sensation of someone sitting on the bed while they were in it. They had chosen not to share this information with me as they did not want to frighten me or put me off renting the room as they needed my share of the rent and also had never felt threatened by the happenings. I was pretty annoyed but had no reason to disbelieve them, they weren´t silly teenagers - one was a physiotherapist and the other a ground stewardess at Heathrow.

Anyway, I lived there for a while longer and thankfully never experienced anything like that again. I really have no explanation for what happened, all I know is it was very real and I was wide awake. If I had known about the old lady and my flatmates´experiences maybe I could have imagined it, but the fact that I knew absolutely nothing rules that out. One of life´s mysteries I guess.

I should like to point out that I don´t believe in ghosts as such and am not easily spooked. The room I am writing this in is my study, but it used to be my father´s bedroom and he actually died in here a few years ago. I am quite comfortable using the room and never feel anything untoward.

At the same time, I believe... ´there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio`...


Monday, 9 August 2021

Pottery run...or should I say walk?

Today and most Mondays is the day I take my pieces to be fired. Since I can´t have a kiln in my flat for health and safety reasons, as mentioned in a previous post, I am lucky enough to have a studio within walking distance where I can take my pots for glazing and firing. I go on Mondays because there is a technician there at lunch time but classes don´t start until two, which means social contact is kept to a minimum. It is also good for me as it is a long walk there and back.

Wednesday is my "making" day when I am actually producing pots although I also work on them other days as it is a step by step process. I am so lucky to have something I can do at home which keeps me interested and occupied during these difficult days.  

I am looking forward to my walk today as it is a nice sunny day and somewhat warmer than of late.


Saturday, 7 August 2021

Perchance to dream

I have come up with a solution for people who have excessive amounts of money. From Gates to Bezos, Rihanna to Musk, billionaires who can never spend it all even with stunts like flying into space and who can´t leave it all to their children at the risk of ruining their lives - the answer is simple - have a maximum wealth limit for everybody on the planet. Any money they make above a certain limit could be put into a central global fund which would then be used to improve the lives of the less fortunate and care for the planet. The rich could still be well off but not too the point where it becomes obscene.

A totally impossible dream, but wouldn´t it be nice?

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

My new best friend!

 

I´ve had this hotwater bottle for years, stuffed at the back of the bathroom cupboard for so long I´d forgotten I had it - after all, not something you normally use in a tropical country. Thank goodness I came across it a few days ago. I have been using it ever since. We are going through an exceptionally cold spell at the moment and it is no fun getting into a bed with icy cold sheets. Now I have the comfort of cuddling my lovely hot bottle every night, a forgotten pleasure, and surprisingly it is even still warm in the morning. The simple pleasures in life are the best.

Monday, 2 August 2021

Cooking rut

I have been printing some recipes off the internet to try and add some variety to my diet. I noticed the other day that I seem to be cooking the same 6 to 8 dishes over and over again. I guess it is part laziness as it is easier to make something you know off by heart! I make all my meals from scratch as I don´t like ready meals and they don´t have the tins and sachets of sauces here that you can get in England. Naturally I batch cook and freeze, as I said, I am lazy and can´t be doing with cooking every day...one of the advantages of living alone...

Vegetarians are not really catered for here, it is catching on but only slowly so it is sometimes hard to find all the ingredients. I´ve noticed that most of what I eat (and enjoy) is pretty hot and spicy. Mostly Indian, Moroccan and Mexican dishes all with an extra dash of cayenne pepper. Thank goodness for the internet, it certainly gives us access to a wide range of things.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

The lad himself


 Having a little snooze...look at the length of those fingers!

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Home at last

My tenth grandchild arrived a couple of weeks ago and it has been a roller-coaster of emotions. He was about two weeks early but a good weight, but his lungs weren´t working which meant he wasn´t breathing unassisted  and this put a strain on his heart. He was intubated and spent days in intensive care, and also caught a generalised infection. He was in intensive care for about a week but slowly overcame all the problems and finally went to the nursery and eventually was discharged yesterday. I shall be seeing him tomorrow. His name, which is highly appropriate, is Victor.



Monday, 26 July 2021

Beware glass balls!

I read somewhere the other day about someone who had a crystal ball which caused a fire when the sun´s rays struck it. This reminded me of a similar thing which happened here at home a few years ago.

I don´t have a crystal ball but I do have a glass one with air bubbles trapped inside it which I bought on my travels. It is quite heavy and I use it as a door stop. Anyway, at that time I had a cleaner who helped look after my father. She was doing my room and put the ball on the bed while she did the floor, then went off to see to lunch for my dad. A couple of hours later when she returned to my room the ball, which had been sitting in direct sunlight, had concentrated the rays and actually burnt a hole right through my duvet cover. Thank goodness she found it when she did otherwise my bed might have caught fire. I was at work at the time. 

Ever since then I have been extremely careful not to leave anything, including eyeglasses, where the sun shines through the windows.


The culprit!



Friday, 23 July 2021

Tom Cat

The following is one of my favourites from many years ago when we had to memorise a poem every week at school and then recite it in front of the class (excruciating experience!). I believe this is no longer in the curriculum and if so I think it is a shame as we developed an appreciation of poetry despite ourselves.

Anyway, The Tom Cat really struck me and I can still recite it from memory to this day. For some reason it popped into my mind last night as I was drifting off to sleep. I think it is very expressive and captures the essence of a cat.

The Tom-Cat


At midnight in the alley
A Tom-cat comes to wail,
And he chants the hate of a million years
As he swings his snaky tail.

Malevolent, bony, brindled,
Tiger and devil and bard,
His eyes are coals from the middle of Hell
And his heart is black and hard.

He twists and crouches and capers
And bares his curved sharp claws,
And he sings to the stars of the jungle nights,
Ere cities were, or laws.

Beast from a world primeval,
He and his leaping clan;
When the blotched red moon leers over the roofs
Give voice to their scorn of man.

He will lie on a rug to-morrow
And lick his silky fur,
And veil the brute in his yellow eyes
And play he's tame, and purr.

But at midnight in the alley
He will crouch again and wail,
And beat the time for his demon's song
With the swing of his demon's tail.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

How many!

I´ve just eaten 8 vegetables for my lunch...just as well I'm vegetarian! I haven´t made this meal for ages, I don´t know why because it is absolutely delicious, as well as simple to make and healthy.

I know, I know, shouldn´t eat in front of the computer but there you go. There´s a bit missing as I´d already started eating when I thought to take a photo.

So, what do we have...potato, broccoli, celery, carrot, cassava, courgettes, green beans and pumpkin, covered in chopped hard-boiled egg and smothered in a cheese sauce. All the veg are steamed together so no mess and no fuss. I actually forgot to add mushrooms and peas but since I feel stuffed it is just as well.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Freedom Day...

I don´t live in the UK so I suppose really I shouldn´t be commenting on what goes on, but being English and having family there I do have a vested interest. All I really wanted to say is that I wish commonsense would prevail, that people would continue to take sensible precautions regardless of what the government say you can or can´t do. Just because you are allowed to do something doesn´t mean you have to. You don´t have to stop wearing a mask and keeping your distance, or avoiding crowded venues. Commonsense unfortunately seems to be in short supply nowadays.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Good news site

Wouldn´t it be lovely if someone started a good news site. Whether you read the news online, watch it on TV or listen to the radio it consists mainly of doom and gloom items which is very depressing. The last thing we need nowadays is a constant stream of negative information.

Imagine a site which only contained good news and positive stories. You could sit down with a cup of tea  and read about things that would restore your faith in humanity - like the man who planted 20,000 trees in his lifetime, the selfless work of volunteers, heroic sacrifices or random acts of kindness by strangers, or just ordinary people getting on with things the best they can. There are a lot of good things happened out there, but we just don´t get to hear about them because it is bad news and shock-horror stories which grab the headlines.

I suppose the answer could be not to watch the news at all but in the current situation there is also the need to remain informed for our own safety. Hobson´s choice.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Difficult memory

When my brother and I were in our teens we each had our own friends, although there was also some joint socialising. One of his pals, whom I shall call J, was a pleasant lad who frequented our house, had the occasional sleepover and brought his American girlfriend round from time to time. We also visited his house once and I remember his mum was very warm and welcoming. The family were Portuguese, originally from Mozambique and I think J had a younger sister. They weren´t particularly well-off but didn´t appear to be struggling financially. They had a little 'sitio', a small farm a few kilometres out of São Paulo. I´d never been there although my brother visited it for bbqs several times. J and I were much of an age and I remember he used to come to me sometimes for advice on his love life when he had a row with his girlfriend. 

Anyway, around this time I moved to England to study nursing and this being before the days of cellphones and computers, when contact was by letter and international phone calls for emergencies only, I lost touch with what was going on back home. My brother later told me the following story.

J´s girlfriend had a younger brother, still a schoolboy at the time. One day the boy disappeared on his way home from school and it turned out he´d been kidnapped when his parents, wealthy Americans, received a ransom demand. The family were frantic with worry and friends rallied round to help in any way they could, with J naturally supporting his girlfriend. After a week or so of telephone negotiation a payment was agreed and arrangements made to hand over the money. After all this time I can´t remember the details but I believe the kidnappers made some sort of stupid mistake and they were caught in the act of picking up the money.

Imagine everyone´s shock and horror when it turned out the kidnappers were none other than J and his father. Not only had they kidnapped the poor boy but they murdered him as obviously he knew who they were, and although he was dead they still went on to demand a ransom. The body was buried at the little 'sitio' and my horrified brother said he had visited there only a couple of weeks beforehand. It is hard to believe someone you thought you knew could be capable of such a mercenary and cruel act. I believe they wanted the money to pay off gambling debts.

J and his father both went to prison to serve long sentences. The father died within a few years of cancer and J was killed not long after in a fight with a fellow prisoner. He had become one of the gang leaders in there and was being challenged by the other prisoner. I believe J´s mother returned to Mozambique with her daughter. I was told that she had been completely unaware of what had happened and it is impossible to imagine what a terrible awakening she must have had.

This all happened over fifty years ago. All in all not a good memory, and I hadn´t thought about it for a long time. I was reminded of it when watching a programme on Netflix about a crime in Brazil, recommended to me a couple of days ago by blogger Rachel.

 

Monday, 12 July 2021

Not so quiet anymore


The above photo is the view from my bedroom window, two fields for five a side football and there is actually a third field out of shot. There have been no games played for about a year but now that the Covid 19 rules are easing they have started again. The matches go on until about midnight and the players are very vocal which means it is difficult to get to sleep some nights. Arguments among them are frequent and their language "would make a sailor blush" as Professor Higgins famously said in 'My Fair Lady'.

I wouldn´t wish for lockdown to return but it did have its positive side.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Third attempt!


I haven´t done any knitting for several years and really struggled to make these booties. My knitting skills were pretty basic anyway as I´m self-taught and trying to decipher the pattern for these took some doing. My first attempt, once I´d mastered the instructions, was absolutely tiny, doll-size in fact! Second attempt with larger needles was a bit bigger but still too small and I decided I had to increase the number of stitches...which really tested my numerical skills and brain cells. Anyway, the end result doesn´t look too bad and hopefully they´ll fit grandchild number 10 when he arrives.

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Golden syrup

 

 
 
Golden syrup is unavailable here which I have found frustrating as it is one of the ingredients in several recipes I like to make. Whenever I visited the UK I brought some Tate and Lyle syrup back, but eventually I would run out and now of course travel is out of the question. I was delighted to come across a video on YouTube the other day which showed how to make golden syrup and amazed to find it basically consists of boiling down sugar and water with a wedge of lemon. Although you simmer it for a long time for some reason it doesn´t burn or caramelize and the end result tastes just like the bought syrup. Who knew it was so simple!

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Brrrrrrrrrr...

It is winter here now and we are going through a cold spell. I really dislike the cold and feel like hibernating. Just imagine reading all day under a cosy duvet, sheer heaven!

The problem with the cold here is that houses and flats are built to be cool in the hot weather, not to keep warm in winter. There are no draught excluders, double glazing or central heating so when the temperature drops the only way to keep warm is to wear loads of layers. The temperature has been dropping to 8C overnight and rising to 11 or 12C during the day. In my book that is COLD, especially with no heating.

I must admit it is not always this bad but even a week or so of these temperatures from time to time is more than enough for me.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Odd behaviour


Toby has acted strangely a couple of times recently and I am wondering if he is going deaf or becoming a bit senile.

I have a baby´s safety gate to keep him out of the kitchen as he follows me everywhere and in there gets under my feet hoping I´ll drop something edible. He stands at the gate waiting for me to come through when it is time for his dinner. I had just fed him and gone to do something when I headed back to the kitchen. Toby had eaten his food and was standing staring fixedly at the gate as if I were still in the kitchen and he was waiting to be fed. I spoke to him to let him know I was actually in the room with him and he completely ignored me, even when I touched him. I had to go in and out of the gate before he seemed to realise I was in the room with him. I know he can´t really see although I believe he can perceive movement, and he mostly follows me by sound and smell, but I can´t really understand this behaviour..

There was another incident a few days ago. I was sat at my computer, where Toby usually lies on his cushion beside me. I heard him crying and found that he was sitting behind me, with his back towards me, staring at the wall and whining. I tried to distract him but he would not stop staring or crying and in the end I had to pick him up and take him through to another room. I shall keep him under observation but I hope it doesn´t mean a trip to the vet as he really hates that

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Hackers

Hackers really are a pain in the proverbial. I went to the hospital yesterday to see the anesthetist about the results of some pre-op blood tests...except the blood results were unavailable...some hackers had attacked the laboratory and their system was down and will be down for over a week apparently. The laboratory is not a local one, it is nationwide which means thousands of people waiting for test results have been affected.

What can possibly go through the mind of a person who would do such a thing. I suppose they held or are holding the lab to ransom, but even so nothing justifies such an irresponsible and despicable act.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Burnt chickpeas

I managed to burn my dinner last night. I often have chickpea salad for my evening meal, made with chopped tomato and onion, boiled chickpeas and some salad dressing...nice and filling, healthy and quick to prepare. I usually cook about 1lb of chickpeas at a time, divide them into portions and freeze them.

So, last night while they were simmering away I did a little cross stitching on the name picture I´m working on for my soon-to-arrive grandson. I lost track of time until there was a strong smell of burning coming from the kitchen. The chickpeas had not only boiled dry but were thoroughly scorched.

I was really cross with myself as a lot of them were black on one side where they had been in contact with the saucepan. Before throwing them out I tasted one out of curiosity and surprisingly enough it didn´t taste too bad, a sort of BBQ flavour... so I put a spoonful of burnt chickpeas in with the good ones in my salad and it was fine. I have now frozen the burnt ones separately to add a few at a time to other dishes. Waste not want not!

It took a few hours of open windows to get rid of the smell of burning, and my poor saucepan is a sorry sight, it´s one of my favourites too. At the moment it is soaking in bicarb.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

A little tip

Depending on the Covid situation where you live, this little tip may be useful.

Here the situation is still pretty dire with cases rising again and ICUs overstretched. Masks are compulsory everywhere as is social distancing . Unfortunately Covid fatigue has set in and people are getting careless and less inclined to obey the rules. I have been shouted at more than once for politely asking the person behind me in a queue to please stand a little further away.

So, here is my tip. Whenever you go to the supermarket always use a shopping trolley, the larger the better, even though you may only be going to buy a couple of items. When you get to the queue at the till, you can control the distance between yourself and the person in front of you and if you stand in front of your trolley instead of behind it the person behind you will always be at least a trolley distance away...which is better than them breathing down your neck and avoids any unpleasantness.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Definition of stress

Here is another of my cross stitch efforts. I designed this one myself. I came across this 'saying' and found it amusing, so I decided to make it look like a twee quote as a contrast between the picture and the words. It is fun to watch the expression on someone´s face change as they get towards the end!



Sunday, 20 June 2021

Diverse divers

The diver on the far right is my daughter, with a group from Scuba Point. She has dived for years and taken many different courses, qualifying for a variety of specialties, in fact she now works as an instructor from time to time. It is her hobby and her passion. Unfortunately (from my point of view) she enjoys cave diving, a rather dangerous pursuit. Although I know she is experienced and safety procedures are strictly followed, I don´t rest easy when she is away on a cave diving trip.

I actually took a diving course myself some years ago and qualified as an open water diver. I really enjoyed it but it is an expensive hobby and I had other priorities at the time so I didn´t keep it up. The feeling of being able to breathe underwater and swimming amongst sea life is quite surreal. It felt as if I were suddenly playing a part in one of the documentaries I enjoyed watching. Maybe one day I´ll try diving again.

The photo is by Izaias Dias.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Cross stitch

I walked over three miles yesterday visiting various shops, trying to find a simple frame for a cross stitch embroidery I am doing. I saw loads of frames of all shapes, sizes and colours, all too fancy for what I need. I guess I´ll have to try again tomorrow, at least I am getting plenty of exercise!

The embroidery is of the name and date of birth of my latest grandchild, due in a few weeks. Obviously the date will have to be added later. I have stitched one for each of my grandchildren as they arrived and it has become something of a tradition. This will be my tenth...

I have always enjoyed doing cross stitch and did several large pictures some years ago. This one took me over a year to do.

This one has so many subtle colour changes it also took me ages. They are both from American patterns which I have always liked best.

After not doing any stitching for quite a few years I find I am struggling a bit now, I guess the old eyesight is getting a bit tired.



Wednesday, 16 June 2021

A handsome chap

This is a photo of my father, taken sometime during World War II. I think he was rather handsome, but I may be prejudiced! He must have been about twenty years old.

After he retired his sight started failing and he eventually came to live with me for the last ten years of his life, by which time he could only tell light from dark. He worked in the automotive industry, in England, Portugal and here in Brazil but his real passion was photography and he actually won prizes for some of his photographs. It was such a shame that when he had more time for his hobby he was unable to practice it.


Monday, 14 June 2021

Motion sickness

YouTube has provided me with hours of viewing pleasure, especially during lockdown. The videos can be instructive, funny, inspiring and interesting, depending on what you choose to watch, there is something for everyone.

Personally I enjoy a wide variety of subjects, from travel and adventure to cooking and handicrafts. One of my bugbears, though, is that some filmmakers wave their camera around so much it makes me feel sea-sick and I have to stop watching something I might otherwise have enjoyed.

An example of this was when I was watching something by a couple who had bought some land in Portugal with a derelict house and were planning on restoring it. This is the kind of thing I like because I have always daydreamed of doing something similar. The video consisted of them walking around showing the land and various rooms in the house. The camera was in constant motion trying to give a view of everything and after a few minutes I actually had to give up as I was getting dizzy and feeling queasy.

I know everybody can´t be a professional filmmaker but it is a shame some potentially good films are spoiled for want of following a few basic rules. I would have thought these mistakes would be picked up in the editing. Anyway, I shouldn´t really complain, after all they are free to watch and there are also some excellent videos which I follow regularly.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Kefir

 

My daughter is really into health and nutrition and from time to time she talks me into trying something different. She introduced me to kefir and I have been making it for a while now. It has become routine to drink a small cupful every morning. 

There are two types of kefir, water and milk. They are small cauliflower-like live grains used to make a probiotic fermented drink. The water kefir grains, also called tibicos, are mixed with water and brown sugar and left to ferment for a couple of days and then you drink the resulting liquid and use the grains to start another batch. The grains will multiply and you end up having to give or throw some away. The liquid tastes a bit like lemonade but if you let it ferment for too long it can become vinegary. It is full of all sorts of beneficial bacteria for a healthy gut.

Milk kefir is made by putting the grains (different to the water ones - they are not interchangeable) in milk which they then ferment. After a day you strain the fermented milk (start another batch with the grains) and can drink the milk, put it in a smoothie or personally I like to further strain the milk through a coffee filter and it becomes thicker like a natural yoghurt. I eat this most mornings with some chopped fruit. Like the water kefir, it is also full of good bacteria. If you let it strain even longer and add some herbs it becomes like a flavoured cottage cheese.

Both types of kefir drinks are made commercially and can be bought, but I prefer to make my own so there are no chemicals or other additives. Kefir has been around for hundreds of years and both types of drinks are highly regarded for their health benefits. I´m sure my gut must be very pleased with me!

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Why blog?

The other day I was wondering why people blog and came to the conclusion there are as many reasons as there are bloggers! Not a brilliant deduction but I´m sure it is true nonetheless. 

In my case I think it is partly the need to 'speak' English. Both my parents were English and my brother and I were born in England. We moved to Brazil when I was a toddler and I grew up here. English was spoken at home and all my schooling was in English following the British education system, so I was brought up a proper little Brit. 

When I eventually married, my husband and I always spoke English to each other but for some strange reason we always spoke to our children in Portuguese. I continue speaking to them and my grandchildren in Portuguese to this day, anything else feels strange. My first husband and I divorced and when my father died about ten years ago there was no one left here I could speak to in English and I must admit I miss it.

I guess one of the reasons I blog is that I enjoy the chance to be able to express myself in my native tongue, although I won´t deny that I also enjoy sharing my thoughts and tidbits from my life.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

A rant

The news these days is so depressing, worrying or futile that I have given up watching it on TV or listening to it on the radio, in fact I can´t remember the last time I switched on my TV, it must have been for some major world event or other. Leaving the news aside, the other programmes here are not to my liking so I don´t watch TV anyway. If I had access to the BBC I might feel differently. I keep myself informed by checking out the headlines in UK newspapers.

Anyway, my rant is about the quality of the news on internet sites. Apart from the spelling and grammar mistakes, most of the 'news' is so unnewsworthy it makes you wonder why they bother to write it. While most of us may occasionally make mistakes when writing, we are not passing ourselves off as journalists. Clickbait headlines and superlatives scattered willy-nilly should be enough to put off any reader, in my opinion. One phrase which really irritates me is 'everything you need to know about...', I don´t need to know why some celebrity is getting a divorce or the latest plot line in a soap opera. Some of us do have an attention span of more than 30 seconds and would enjoy reading something interesting and informative. Rant over!

Monday, 31 May 2021

Another view, another window...

This is the view from another window in my apartment, on the other side of the building. We often have lovely sunsets although I´d rather see the horizon without obstacles in the way. Out of curiosity I checked the view I posted recently from another window on my faithful Silva walking compass and it reads West, and this window with the sunset reads Northwest...I´ve always understood the sun rises in the East and sets in the West! Summat´s wrong!

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Another little adventure

Before I retired I worked at a certain consulate in the visa section where I dealt with the applicants and their paperwork before passing it on to an officer for analysis and a decision. One of the people I handled was a hot air balloon pilot who traveled to competitions all over the world. He was so delighted when his visa was granted that he offered me and my family a free balloon flight. It was an offer I couldn´t refuse!


We set off one Saturday to a nearby town called Pindamonhangaba (yes, that really is the name of a town!), myself, daughter and son in law and toddler and one of my sons. It was really interesting seeing the balloons laid out and filling with hot air from roaring gas burners. The baskets were quite small so I went in one balloon with my daughter and my son flew in another. Son in law and toddler stayed behind as we took off and my little granddaughter wailed as she saw her mother slowly disappearing into the sky. 


Both my daughter and I have a fear of heights so it was a white knuckle ascent as we rose, each clutching the basket with a death grip. As we started to drift across the landscape things got easier but I must confess I never felt entirely comfortable. I had imagined it might be windy up there, but of course since you are floating at the same speed as the wind the air felt completely still, and so silent you could clearly hear dogs barking and people going about their business.
 

At one point we drifted over a cluster of buildings and the pilot explained he was taking us higher as the buildings were a prison and people (prisoners or guards?) had been known to take potshots at the balloons! After about half an hour we landed safely and were picked up and taken back to base. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and a most unusual way to spend a Saturday.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

A view from my window

 

A beautiful crisp sunny day here, and this is what the view from one of my windows looks like. I´m on the eighth floor and luckily not really overlooked. Not the peaceful green rolling hills I´d prefer to see, unfortunately. In the bottom right corner is the edge of a five-a-side football field . There are three fields altogether and they are in constant use. What with games and championships going on until midnight or later, it gets a bit noisy with the excited fans cheering their teams on. 

The bottom left corner shows the roof and upper windows of a popular restaurant and bar where the weekend overflow crowds stand drinking on the pavement until the early hours. There´s another bar on the opposite corner where the same thing happens, right under my bedroom window. So, it is not exactly peaceful round here. Luckily I´ve found over the years that I have become so used to the noise that it doesn´t bother me too much, unless there is a drunken argument or fight.

This was where I lived in Marsden, Yorkshire. A bit of a contrast! From my bedroom window there wasn´t a building in sight, just hills.

Monday, 24 May 2021

Lovely Sunday

Yesterday I had my second Mothers Day lunch. My daughter was away for the first one a couple of weeks ago which I celebrated with my son and his family and some of my grandchildren, so she made up for it by taking me to lunch at an Indian restaurant with my son in law. I love Indian food but it is not very well known here and there are very few places which serve it. It was absolutely delicious and I had a lovely afternoon, she had also brought me a basket of edible gifts so I have a good excuse to indulge myself. A little spoiling never hurt anyone.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Short straw

Well, it looks like I have drawn the short straw vaccine-wise. According to the news neither the EU nor the UK will accept my Coronavac vaccine for entry into Europe or England. The Camino de Santiago in Spain which I had to cancel a year ago and hoped to do next spring and my plans to spend this Christmas in England with family have all gone up in smoke.

Why on earth the government here gave most of us a vaccine which has yet to be approved by the WHO instead of using the proper ones I have no idea, although it wouldn´t surprise me if price hadn´t something to do with it.

So, what now? I don´t know if at some point it would be possible to get re-vaccinated, maybe when vaccines become available privately here and you can actually choose which one to have. The other option is quarantine in the UK which costs nearly 2000 pounds, way too much for me. 

I´m feeling pretty cross to put it mildly.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Court again

 I had another virtual court appearance today although thank goodness I didn´t have to speak, the opposition lawyer is rather intimidating. We heard the two last witnesses and as far as I know my presence is not required for the next stage. The lawyers will present their arguments to the judge and she will make a decision. If it goes in my favour, which it has every time so far, the other party will then appeal...and the whole merry go round will start again. A touch of Groundhog Day.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Cold feet

We are getting into autumn here now and thank goodness the temperature has finally dropped, it is around the low twenties during the day now. There is nothing cosier than being able to snuggle under a duvet instead of lying on top of the covers perspiring while a ceiling fan blows hot air on you.

After lunch if I´m not busy I like to lie down with a book and then have a snooze. Since it is cooler now I usually cover myself with the duvet even though I am dressed. What I cannot understand is the following...my feet are bare but covered while I am reading, as I doze off they get colder and colder until they feel like a couple of blocks of ice, even to touch...yet at night when I go to bed in pj's and bare feet, when the ambient temperature is lower, my feet are fine, not cold at all. I know the solution is to wear socks in the afternoon, but I can´t help wondering why this happens. One of life´s little mysteries, I guess.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Toby


I gave Toby a bath today so he is not best pleased with me. He´s wearing socks in the picture because every so often he starts licking his paws nonstop and it is the only way to stop them getting sore. After a few days I take the socks off and he is fine for a couple of months. Go figure!

I don´t believe in bathing a dog too often, I don´t think it is either good for them or natural. I have a friend who baths her Yorkie once a week. He spends all his time scratching frantically and she spends a fortune on special shampoos. Toby gets a bath about every three or four weeks and only goes to the groomers when he needs a trim every couple of months. After his daily walk I wipe his paws and that is it.

Unfortunately the older he gets the more he hates his bath. He had the same groomer from when he was a puppy and was always delighted to see him if we met on the street, but hung back and dug his heels in if he was going for a bath, so I would have to carry him. Sadly his groomer died last year and since then Toby shakes all the way to the pet shop. Imagine being blind and being handled, washed and trimmed by a stranger. Poor old soul. 

If I could I would trim him at home as I feel sorry for him and guilty at making him go through this ordeal but I know he requires a professional groomer. I can´t just leave his fur to grow, unlike short-haired dogs, Yorkies´ fur grows in the same way as our hair and needs trimming to prevent knots and tangles forming. At least he gets most of his baths at home but even so he really does not enjoy the experience.

I don´t have a bathtub, only a shower, so we sit in there each perched on a stool as he is too small for me to bend down to and I use the spray attachment on him. Needless to say it is a bit of a performance as he keeps shaking himself and I get pretty wet too. After it is all over he gets a special treat, and there is nothing wrong with his memory as he begs for it right away by spinning in circles.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Same old, same old

Nothing very exciting has happened over the last few days, I seem to be stuck in my little rut waiting for the days to pass when my vaccination will supposedly take effect, one week to go. I must confess I went out to a family lunch on Sunday, Mothers Day here in Brazil. No hugs or kisses of course, but there were flowers and chocolates and a lovely meal.

I´m supposed to be doing some knitting for grandchild no. 10, due in a couple of months, but I seem to have lost my inspiration. I think the pattern I´ve chosen is too complicated and I am finding it hard to concentrate. I´ve also been asked to decorate a wooden tray for his toiletries so I may start with that first. If it turns out well I´ll post a photo! I´ve always embroidered a little cross stitch picture for each grandchild with their name on but naturally need to wait until he´s born in case there is a last minute name change. Mum and Dad are not in total agreement yet...

Thursday, 6 May 2021

It´s not Friday

For some reason I keep thinking today is Friday instead of Thursday, maybe my brain is short-circuiting. This week I went to the farmers market as usual for my fruit and veg and bought some bananas. Here you buy them by the dozen or half dozen, not by weight. Usually they give you one extra but this time I hit the jackpot.


There are sixteen in the picture, with the one I have already eaten that makes seventeen! They cost me the equivalent of one pound sterling. It´s a good job I like bananas but even I can´t eat that lot before they become over ripe. I usually peel and freeze some, they keep for a long time and are delicious when defrosted and warmed in the microwave in their own juice with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Monday, 3 May 2021

21st with a difference!

 A few years ago it was my eldest granddaughter´s twenty first birthday. Not for her a big party or booze-up with pals, she opted for a family adventure.


Whitewater rafting with Mum, Dad, sister and Granny. A day to remember, I can tell you. That´s me at the back next to the paddler!

Friday, 30 April 2021

The new normal

It is strange how if you repeatedly do something unusual it eventually becomes routine and you don´t even think about it. Who´d have thought over a year ago that as you gather keys, bag etc to leave home you also automatically grab and put on a mask, that you change footwear at the front door and rub alcohol on your hands frequently. 

I´ve noticed that as well as the above habits I also keep my left hand "clean" while I am out, never touching anything with it so that I can use it to push my glasses up or adjust my mask. My "contaminated" right hand is used to summon the lift, open and close doors and use my electronic tag to go through the two security gates as I leave my building. I wonder how long it will take for us to forget this new normal and get back to the old normal again.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Potting again

The studio where I fire my pots has finally opened again, I last went there at the beginning of the year. While I do all my making at home I can´t have a kiln in my apartment due to wiring regulations.

I haven´t made much for the last couple of months but now I feel motivated to get working once more. Since I don´t drive now I have to walk there and back, carrying my pots, which does limit how much I can take and encourages me to keep my pieces small! It is a 3km round trip so the exercise is good as well.

I would dearly love to have my own little studio with a kiln but the current arrangement, while not too practical, at least lets me keep potting.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

In court again!

 I have spent another afternoon in court, albeit virtually, while my case trundles on and witnesses are heard. It is very tiring and stressful and so far there is no end in sight. I am reminded of  Dickens and Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Bleak House where a legal wrangle was so long drawn out as to eat up whatever inheritance there was. The judge is polite and understanding but things have to follow due process and so it goes. I find it hard to believe how mendacious and brass faced some people can be, and so greedy too. I sometimes despair of the human race. when it is all over hopefully I can tell the tale.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

A childhood tale

I don´t know what brought this memory to the surface today but I thought it would be amusing to share it.

I must have been about six at the time, and my brother seven. We lived in a place called Niteroi, near Rio de Janeiro in a house on a hill. We had a large garden which sloped down to the road and on the other side of our hedge was a vacant plot of land covered in undergrowth and trees, with a narrow path running down the side of the hedge.

My brother and I were out playing on this plot one day when we found a cylindrical object about two foot long and a few inches wide. Intrigued, we decided to take it home to play with. I remember it was quite heavy and we struggled with it, one at each end and finally managed to drag it into our garden.

One end of the object came to a point and had some holes in, so my brother decided to experiment poking some lighted matches in the holes to see what happened. He fetched a box of matches from the kitchen and had just lit the first one when my mother arrived on the scene. She nearly had a fit as she recognised our toy as an unexploded shell (she had been in the RAF in the war). My father was at work so she summoned the gardener and asked him to carefully get rid of the dangerous object. We had not been in Brazil that long and unfortunately her Portuguese was not very fluent so something was lost in translation. The gardener picked the shell up, went through the gate to the vacant plot of land and tossed it down the narrow path by the hedge where it bounced and rolled its way down the hill and out of sight. My brother and I stood watching all this while the gardener dusted his hands and my mother had hysterics expecting the shell to blow up any minute.

What on earth a shell was doing there we never knew, but at least it didn´t explode and I believe my father got rid of it somehow when he came home from work. Why I remembered this story today I have no idea.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Vaccine lottery

I had my second jab of the Coronavac vaccine today, and again kept a close eye on proceedings. My timing wasn´t so good this time as it took about an hour to get seen. I should have gone last Monday but news reports said the latest information on this vaccine is that an increased interval of 21-28 days makes it more effective. Since it has also now been announced it is only 50.7% effective anyway anything to up the odds is worth it. And that is if the information is accurate since it is from incomplete and unverified data supplied by the manufacturer. For all we know they may be being economical with the truth since the WHO benchmark for vaccines is 50%. Just hope for the best I guess.

Which vaccine you get is really the luck of the draw, though. A close friend who lives in my condominium went for her vaccine a week before me at the same clinic where I had mine and was given the Pfizer one. My youngest son was vaccinated elsewhere and was given the AstraZeneca one...he works for the police as a forensic photographer so ends up going to all sorts of unsavoury places, thus his entitlement to a jab.

In a couple of weeks I´ll also be getting my annual ´flu jab. Hopefully then all bases will be covered!

Monday, 12 April 2021

India - final part

After recovering from my latest adventure, I spent a couple of days before my flight home just mooching around near my hotel and buying gifts for the family. Apart from the few scares I really enjoyed my visit to India and would love to go back some day. There is so much more to see and do, I only touched the tip of the iceberg. I would definitely not go on my own, though. I think a small guided group would be ideal as you could learn and see so much more and feel secure at the same time. Of course because my main purpose was to see Passang a group trip had not been possible.

 Mahatma Gandhi´s cremation site

My return flight was an early morning one so the hotel arranged a taxi for me for about five in the morning. I know I was charged way over the odds but I didn´t argue, I just wanted to get to the airport without any hassle at this point. When the driver came for me and set off with my suitcase I expected him to turn right down the alley to the main part of the bazaar towards the station. Instead he turned left up the alley and proceeded to weave in and out of ever narrower empty alleys, walking very fast, while I had no choice but to follow him and my hostage suitcase. I remember thinking "here we go again" as it was dark that time of the morning and I hadn´t a clue where I was or where he was taking me. After about fifteen minutes we suddenly turned onto a little side street and there was the taxi! Relief once again.

 Maybe my imagination is too vivid and I always think the worst but I seem to have had more than my fair share of hair raising moments on this journey. I am not usually a timorous traveler, after all I didn´t hesitate to set off and walk 800km across Spain on my own with a backpack a couple of years later. Anyway, I made it to the airport and onto my flight to London without any trouble. In London I was met by one of my sons, who lives there, and was I glad to see him. After a couple of weeks lovely visit I returned to my home in Brazil.

Passang and I continued to exchange letters but over time she started to write less frequently, especially after I refused her request for a computer, and eventually stopped. My last letter to her was never answered. I guess she is all grown up now and busy leading her own life. I don´t regret helping her get a start in life and do hope she is doing well.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

India - part seven

I know I said this would be the final India post but I have a feeling it is going to be too long, so there may be one more to come! After my successful day tour of Delhi I decided to venture further afield, after all you cannot visit India without seeing the Taj Mahal, can you? So I booked a coach trip to Agra. On the way there we had a comfort stop and I was really amused by the sign in the Ladies which said "Do not feed the monkeys, they may bite". I had visions of my cubicle being invaded by an angry simian. I actually took a photo of the sign but can´t find it now.

 This is the classic view of the Taj Mahal

 

A closer view which gives a better sense of scale. All the detail is inlaid and the coloured flowers are semi-precious stones. I think it can sometimes be disappointing to see a famous landmark but I can truly say this was really breathtaking and very beautiful.

 We also visited Akbar´s Tomb, some craft shops and Agra Fort,


 which was overrun with monkeys inside.


 There was also a bull-powered lawn mower!


I had a most enjoyable day and was happy to have been able to visit such beautiful and interesting places. Knowing I would be arriving back in Delhi about ten at night I had arranged for the hotel to send a taxi to pick me up at a pre-arranged place and time. Guess what? 

I waited on the pavement at the agreed place, over the road from a square where there was a busy handcraft market. After half an hour I was getting worried as there was no sign of my taxi and the number of people about was diminishing. There was a telephone stall in the market where you could make a call for a small charge so I went over and managed to get through to the hotel, who insisted the taxi was waiting for me. I was so jittery by this time that I made my way back to the meeting place without paying for my call. Still no taxi and even less people about.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone slowly approaching me and beginning to circle me. He was a tall sadhu, clad only in a loincloth and ashes. Quite frankly I was pretty scared. Where I live you have to be streetwise and it has become second nature to always be aware and wary. I would never normally put myself in such a vulnerable situation, alone at night in a strange place, but I thought by arranging the taxi I had covered my bases.

The sadhu continued circling, getting to within a few feet of me and I kept turning so that I was always facing him. A few yards away was a tourist information kiosk, closed and with the lights out but suddenly the door opened and two tourist police came out, approached me and asked if I needed help. They sent the sadhu packing and when I explained about my taxi my saviours took me into kiosk, rang the hotel and found the taxi had been waiting in the wrong place. Within a few minutes it drew up and half an hour later I was safe in my room. Another happy conclusion thank goodness.

If anyone is still hanging in there, the next India post is really the last, I promise.

Friday, 9 April 2021

HRH Prince Philip

I was very sorry to read the news today of the death of Prince Philip. At his age and with his recent health problems not altogether unexpected but still a sad day, especially for the Queen after so many years together.

I remember being presented to him when he came to Brazil a long time ago (I was sixteen at the time). There was a reception at the British Club and my family had been invited because my mother had an English school. Prince Philip was most charming, addressing a few words to each person as he moved along the line. Somewhere I believe there are photos, including one of me in hat and gloves, lovely memory anyway.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Fruit of the Gods


 Persimmons, my absolute all-time favourite fruit. Sweet and juicy, slightly chilled straight out of the fridge, who could ask for more!

I usually buy all my fruit and veg from the local weekly farmers´market. Everything is cheaper and fresher and there are loads of stalls. While some fruit, like bananas and oranges, is available all year round other varieties like persimmons are seasonal and I really look forward to this time of year.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

India - part six

I know this was in Delhi but I can´t remember what it was, I saw so many places, but I do remember it was very beautiful.


On one of my outings to Connaught Place I got chatting to two Italian ladies, tourists like myself. They were also staying in Paharganj and we met up for dinner that night, which made a nice change. I usually had dinner in my room as I didn´t fancy going out alone at night. My hotel didn´t have a restaurant but I was brought breakfast every morning and there was an extensive menu for choosing dinner. I have no idea where the food came from or what I was really eating but sometimes it is better not to know, and it was very appetizing, plus I love Indian food. My theory was if it was cooked the heat would kill any germs and I am happy to say I never had the least sign of "Delhi belly"! I never ate any salads, fruit that couldn´t be peeled or drank anything that didn´t come in a sealed bottle, needless to say.

I had been instructed to put my tray outside my door after I had finished my meal. The first time I did this I was surprised to find a chap sleeping on the floor on my threshold. There were only about three rooms on each landing so the space was quite small. I didn´t know if he was a member of staff like a night porter, a security guard or whatever. When I put the tray down on the floor he woke up and appeared interested in what remained of my meal, so from then on I always made sure I left him some food.

Before going to India I had been active on a Lonely Planet travelers' forum on the internet, trying to gather as much information as possible, and had actually made contact with a lady who lived in Delhi.I managed to get in touch with her while I was there and we met up once when she gave me some useful tips and advice. I think we were a bit wary initially as you never know for sure who you are talking to on the internet. How much easier my trip would have been now with a smartphone and instant contact. We remain in touch to this day!

Next and last post about India to follow, the more I write the more I remember and want to write about but this is getting too long winded...

Friday, 2 April 2021

India - part five

Initially I´d been pretty annoyed about my minder´s disappearing act and intended to make a complaint to the organisation which had arranged for him to take care of me. Now that I was safely back in Delhi I decided not to take it any further, after all I didn´t really know what had happened, it could have been any one of a number of things, not necessarily his fault. He had told me he was originally a Tibetan refugee himself and I didn´t want to get him in to too much trouble.

I was determined to make the best of my time in Delhi and see as much as possible despite being alone so I started to venture forth on my own, initially on foot, and wandered around the area and bazaar near my hotel, always during the day, of course. Near the station I found there was a tuk-tuk kiosk where you could arrange and prepay for your journey without any hassle so I grew bolder and started to venture further afield, trusty guidebook in hand. Connaught Place, a central point in New Delhi, was easy to get to, well-known and had many interesting places to visit so I went there several times. Growing bolder yet I decided a guided full day tour by coach to Delhi´s main sights would be an ideal way to see a lot of interesting places, as everything is rather scattered. There are many tourist agencies selling tours but I made sure to go to the official Indian Tourism one to book mine. The following day on the way to the starting point my tuk-tuk driver insisted on taking me to the wrong agency, no doubt for a commission, but luckily I knew where I was and walked the short distance to the correct place.

The tour was excellent and visited about a dozen places amongst which I really enjoyed seeing the Bahai Lotus Temple, a place for quiet contemplation.


There was the Astronomical Observatory, Humayun´s Tomb, India Gate and many others including the Red Fort built by Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal.

Cutting grass by hand in the Red Fort gardens.

Delhi has many wonderful places to visit, this tour could only cover a few but it was well worth taking. By the end of the afternoon, though, I was ready to get back to my room.

After the tour was over the guide arranged for a tuk-tuk to take me back to Paharganj where I would have to walk the last stretch to my hotel. All went well until we arrived and I went to pay the driver the agreed fare plus a tip. He demanded more than double the fare and started shouting at me when I tried to argue with him. I knew how much had been agreed and was determined not to be intimidated or ripped off. We were near the busy bazaar and a mostly male crowd started to surround us. The driver started appealing to the crowd and I decided I´d better leave before things got out of hand. I shouted at the driver that I had given him the full fare as agreed, drew myself up to my full height (5'7") and marched off through the crowd into the bazaar with my pack on my back. I really didn´t know what was going to happen next, if anything, but I was hopping mad and tired of feeling vulnerable. Despite my fears no-one followed me and I made it back to my hotel without incident, thank goodness.

Still more to come...

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Lost in translation

I feel the alarums and excursions of my India posts need a little light relief so here is something completely different!


I had this cast iron wall plaque made for my little back-to-back house when I lived in Marsden, Yorkshire, near the Pennines. I believe it was from the Harrogate Agricultural Show although I may be mistaken.

Instead of the usual twee Cob Cottage I opted for Kob which I thought up in a pub (after a pint or two), and stands for Knackered Old Bugger (referring to myself of course!). It now hangs near my front door here in my apartment in Brazil and there is no way I can explain what it means to anyone!