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!

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

India - part four

In my previous India post I said I had been let down regarding my return to Delhi and was heading there the following day with nowhere to stay and arriving at nearly midnight. After my initial panic good sense prevailed and I used my trusty guidebook to find a budget hotel near New Delhi station. The area was not very salubrious but I just wanted somewhere quick and easy to get to and I also had to watch my pennies. My hotel reception in Dehradun kindly rang Delhi for me and booked me a room at my chosen hotel and arranged for someone to meet me at the station. The arrangements sounded very garbled and confusing and I could only hope it would all work out.

Next day Passang saw me off at the station after a fond farewell and I was on my way. I think she enjoyed my visit and all the things we had done together, I hope so, anyway.

I must confess that the nearer I got to Delhi the more worried I became about whether there would be anyone to meet me. I had visions of having to find a safe spot in the station where I could sit until morning, hoping there might be a police post there where I could take refuge.

I was met, however, but not quite in the way I expected. There was a man on the platform holding up a placard with my name on it, he picked up my case and we set off to what I thought would be a car. Instead he just kept walking, crossing streets and avenues while I followed him. After some time we reached an area where there were no cars and started up a narrow street. It was after midnight by now and there were few people about, although every now and then two or three figures would detach themselves from the shadows and come towards me. My escort would say something to them and they would back off. My heart was in my mouth several times. Eventually we turned up a narrow alley and there was my my immense relief. 

The area I was in is called Paharganj, with narrow streets bustling with shops and stalls and usually crowded. No cars or tuk-tuks are allowed.

Below is the alley where my hotel was located


And this was the view from my window

The hotel itself was adequate for the ten days or so I would be in Delhi. Once through its doors I felt safe and although my room was not very clean it had all the facilities including air conditioning so I decided to stay put rather than go through the hassle and expense of trying to find somewhere else. It was all part of new experiences, after all.

Next up...adventures in Delhi and beyond.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Things that go bump in the night

John at Going Gently wrote a post today about night duty and ghosts which reminded me of an incident in my early nursing days.

I was alone on night duty, on a male ward, as my senior had gone for her meal. The ward was quite long, with about ten beds down each side and I was sitting at a desk at one end, under a dim light. All the patients were asleep. 

I heard a soft noise coming from down the other end of the ward and as I peered through the gloom I could make out a large naked figure coming towards me clutching an enormous member. I must say I have never really thought about the expression "my blood ran cold" but I can now truly say it is a most disturbing sensation. 

I stood up on legs like jelly as the tall figure slowly approached my circle of light, and I could finally make out what was before me. With immeasurable relief I recognised one of my patients. He was a gentle soul, a lovely old man who sadly suffered from dementia. He had somehow climbed out of bed, taken off his pajamas and was looking for the toilet. Being a modest man he had decided to cover part of his anatomy with a rolled-up newspaper, hence the optical illusion.

Nursing was hard work,tiring, rewarding but certainly never dull.

Friday, 26 March 2021

India - part three


Ganesh, the Hindu god of good fortune, popular elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati. One of the souvenirs I brought home.

My Lonely Planet guide came in useful finding places to visit in and around Dehradun. One day Passang and I went by taxi to Mussoorie, an old hill station 34 km away where the British used to retreat to escape the heat in summer. Established by the British in 1823 it made me think of the days of the Raj. It was a refreshing change to be up in the cool air of the hills and I went for a ride on a cable car, although Passang was too scared to join me..


Other days in Dehradun I took Passang shopping and bought her a few gifts while trying not to come across as Lady Bountiful, and we visited some temples. When you visit a holy site you have to leave your shoes at the entrance and they are usually put in a numbered pigeonhole and you are given a ticket. Imagine my dismay when leaving one temple to find my trainers had been stolen! Nobody knew or had seen anything of course and Passang did not want to take things further so there I was, barefoot and some way from the hotel. To make matters worse there was a farmers market in the street outside and I had to walk through loads of discarded rotting vegetable matter and animal droppings. After a few streets I spotted a shoe shop and managed to buy some very cheap men´s trainers (my English feet were to big for ladies!). 

In the temple before I knew my trainers had been stolen.

All in all I think the visit went very well. I was glad to have gone, and to have had the opportunity to finally meet Passang, who had always addressed me as "mother" in her letters and referred to my children as her brothers and sister. Now I was ready to return to Delhi, relax and see the sights. My return train ticket had been booked so all I had to do was ask the hotel to ring the chap who had met me at the airport so he could pick me up at Delhi station and take me to the hotel he had booked for me.

Except...he had vanished into thin air! He wasn´t answering his phone or emails. So there I was returning to Delhi the following day, arriving at nearly midnight on my own with nowhere to stay.

To be continued...

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Yes M´lud

 Well, I guess I can´t complain life in lockdown is boring, it seems to be one thing after another...I was in court today, albeit in a conference call. I was going to explain a bit more then realised this wouldn´t be very wise as the case is still pending. I hasten to add that it is a dispute over an inheritance, I haven´t been had up for any offense...

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

India - part two

My train journey to Dehradun lasted a few hours and I enjoyed all the new and fascinating sights out of my window, and a meal which I hadn´t been expecting. I don´t know what I ate but remember I enjoyed it! When I got off the train at my station there were a few people waiting on the platform including a slight figure holding a bouquet of flowers. It was Passang, waiting to welcome me. We greeted each other rather awkwardly, and she gave me the flowers, which I thought a lovely gesture. I tried to hug her but felt it didn´t go down very well. I guess it was a question of cultural differences. In Brazil we are very touchy-feely and hugs and kisses are a normal greeting. We went by tuk-tuk to the hotel where I was staying and settled for a chat in my room.

Passang was eighteen then, very slender and dainty and pretty. Her English was rather poor so conversation was somewhat laboured but it was lovely seeing her and getting to know her better. When I had first sponsored her I´d thought she was an orphan but in fact both her parents were alive and she had a brother or two. She lived in a Tibetan settlement village in the hills above Dehradun. For the week or so that I was there she came to see me every day and we went sightseeing and wandering around together. One day she came to see me wearing Tibetan dress.

On another day she took me by tuk-tuk up into the hills to the Tibetan settlement. It must have been about an hour away and as we crawled up a narrow tarmac strip between heavily wooded slopes she told me someone walking down a few days previously had been taken by a tiger. Gulp!

This is the settlement. I believe two or more families live in each house. I don´t know where the rest of her family were, Passang said they were away and only her father was there. He was a small wizened old gentleman without a word of English. He received me ceremoniously, draping a white silk khata around my neck, bowing and saying words of welcome and thanking me for the help I had given as Passang translated. I have been fascinated with Tibet since my early teens and have read many books about the country, learning about its customs and traditions. It was fascinating and quite surreal to be actually living this moment. I was given Tibetan tea, which was churned with butter. I´ve always wondered what it tasted like and it was actually quite nice, although I doubt it was made with yak butter, which may have made a difference. Every time my cup was half empty it was filled up again from a flask. This was followed by a meal of special dumplings called momos which were delicious. Passang´s father did not eat or drink and I had to really insist on Passang joining me as I felt very uncomfortable eating on my own. I felt they had probably spent money they could ill afford in order to receive me. I ate enough to be polite but made sure I left plenty for them to have later.

   This is an altar to the Dalai Lama in their house. Note the two prayer wheels on the left. I still have the khata, very carefully put away amongst my special souvenirs.

To be continued...again!

Monday, 22 March 2021


I had my 1st vaccine today, as my age group finally came up. I could have actually had it on Friday but I wanted to miss the first rush where queues have been reportedly waiting three hours, also since I probably had the coronavirus a couple of weeks ago you are supposed to allow an interval before having the vaccine. My interval was not the recommended 28 days but in these uncertain times I decided not to wait any longer. My timing was excellent and there were only two people ahead of me.

Since the scandal here of people supposedly receiving the vaccine where the syringe was empty or the plunger not depressed, as filmed on the cellphones of relatives accompanying the patient,  I was determined to keep an eye on everything but it wasn´t necessary. The nurse showed me the labelled flask with the vaccine, drew it up, showed me the full syringe and then the empty one after. What a world we live in when that sort of thing is necessary.

So, I had the Coronavac with the second dose due in three weeks. I am very grateful although there is a lingering doubt. This vaccine is only being used in two or three other countries, certainly not the UK, EU or USA. It makes me wonder how effective it is and why they aren´t using it. I hope my arm aches tomorrow and I have a headache, at least I´ll feel I´m reacting to something.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

India - part one

The Lonely Planet India guide book was one of my retirement presents from work and it saved my bacon more than once, as shall be seen.

I guess the beginning of a long tale is a good place to here goes. There are no direct flights from Brazil to India so I ended up having to fly from São Paulo to London and London to Delhi, a long trek. Things did not get off to a good start. While waiting to board our flight my fellow passengers and I were informed that it had been cancelled as the aircraft had struck a bird upon arrival. We  were put up in a hotel overnight and left the following day. There was a strong smell of roast feathers in the cabin when we took off next day as the bird had been sucked into the turbine!

Luckily both my flights were with the same airline so I did not have to worry about rebooking. Also I managed to email the person due to meet me at the airport in Delhi.

The organization through which I had "adopted" my Tibetan refugee had arranged for a local representative in Delhi to meet me, arrange a B&B and get me a train ticket for my journey north to where she lived, in Dehradun. I arrived pretty exhausted after two long flights, and my escort finally turned up over an hour late saying he´d been at a party. I´d had an anxious wait since it was late at night and I was alone in a totally strange environment. He was a Tibetan and luckily spoke some English.

Anyway, he dropped me off safely at my B&B and the following day brought me my train tickets and was reimbursed for all his expenses. Luckily some other guests were also catching a train the next day and I managed to share a cab with them to the station as I had not relished trying to make my own way there.

The train station was a real eye opener. It was absolutely heaving with densely packed crowds rushing here and there, very noisy and very confusing. Platform signs were few and far between but I eventually found the right train, my carriage and numbered seat. What a relief it was to be able to sit down and relax for a few hours feeling secure.

To be continued...

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Not quite Lady Di

 When I retired fourteen years ago I treated myself to a trip to India. It was pretty hair raising as I went on my own and had a few challenging moments. I shall tell a few tales in future posts. 

The reason for my trip was to meet my Tibetan "daughter". About ten years previously I had sponsored a Tibetan refugee living in India who was about eight at the time. I contributed towards her upkeep and education and we corresponded over the years in basic English. 

She was now eighteen and I had always wanted to meet her so when I retired carpe diem as they say. 

The photo above was taken on the same seat Lady Diana sat on.

Monday, 15 March 2021

By request

Here is my wholemeal bread recipe, as requested by Rambler.

400g strong wholemeal flour

50g strong white flour

1 sachet (10g) dry biological yeast

1 tsp salt

3 tsp brown sugar

350ml warm water

Stir all the dry ingredients together in a bowl then slowly add the warm water, mixing by hand, until a ball is formed. Turn the ball out and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, put it back in the bowl and cover (I find a shower cap ideal for this), leave to rise until double in size. How long this takes will depend on the ambient temperature, but usually about an hour. 

Turn out again, knead a few times and shape to fit in a greased and floured loaf tin. Cover and leave to rise until double again. Preheat the oven to 220C. Uncover and bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until the crust is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out onto a cooling rack.

As I said, a quick and easy recipe that I have used for years. Please feel free to ask me if you have any doubts.


Sunday, 14 March 2021

Long ago and far away...confession time

 Long ago it certainly was, over forty years ago, and far away for me now as I live in Brazil and this occurred in London. At the time I was a student nurse, therefore unqualified, and my then husband was a psychiatric nurse. He was earning extra money doing agency work as nurses` pay was always low, then as now.

I can´t remember why after all this time but one day my husband asked me to stand in for him, to look after his current patient pretending I was from the agency. How the young are reckless! I looked on it as a bit of a lark and went along with the idea with little thought to the possible very serious consequences of my action.

The patient was a Lord and lived in Lambeth Palace and was a very well-known public figure. I duly presented myself at the Palace dressed in my husband´s white coat. The Lord was elderly and somewhat confused but in reasonable health so my duties were light. I think the only medical thing I had to do was give him his medicine, thank goodness.

He was a difficult patient though. At one point he was sat in the hall on an upright chair, insisting he was waiting for a train, and would not come to eat the lunch I had helped prepare, despite my and his wife´s coaxing. When he eventually stood up I was amazed at how tall and strong he was. He towered over me and I´m 5`7". Eventually we got him to the table where he wouldn´t eat the "rubbish" before him. I´d tried to make something healthy as his diet sounded pretty dire.

Anyway, the day eventually came to an end and I left. When I look back now I can´t believe what I did! If anything had gone wrong I could have been in very serious trouble indeed. The Lord survived for another couple of years, despite my ministrations, and I guess after all this time I can ´fess up without getting into trouble.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Coronavirus symptons

According to the WHO etc, the symptoms for coronavirus are fever, headache, aches and pains, runny nose, dry cough, nausea, tiredness, stomachache and diarrhea. I´ve had the lot over the last eight days yet my swab test came back negative! 

I find it hard to believe the test result since I´m still feeling poorly. There is a result called a false negative so maybe that is the case. Anyway, I intend to continue in isolation just as a precaution...I don´t want to pass it on to anyone else.

Although I don´t feel well I think if I do have Covid it is not too badly and I can look after myself at home. I hope so because the situation here in São Paulo has reached crisis point and the health service is unable to cope.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

In limbo

 I´ve been feeling poorly for a few days...went for the nasal swab Covid test today. I should get the result Thursday evening. Here´s hoping it´s just ´flu.

Saturday, 6 March 2021


 We´ve gone into lockdown today...I knew it was coming again! Oh well, nothing to do but hunker down and wait for it to pass. It is supposed to be for two weeks. At least I can make pots even if I can´t take them to be fired and I can watch Time Team on YouTube. I have baked my own bread for several years so there is that too.

I find it tastes much better than any bought bread and is so easy to make. I slice and freeze it when it is ready and a loaf lasts me a couple of weeks at least. Small pleasures but they help to pass the time.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021


My posts are getting a bit gloomy, time for a change of subject. One of the things which is helping me get through my months of isolation is the fact that I can do some pottery at home.

In the eighties I did a ceramics degree as a mature student and loved every minute of it. Afterwards I did a bit of teaching in Adult Education evening classes but never managed to set up my own studio. Then life got in the way, I stopped potting and eventually moved back to Brazil. Here evening classes are unknown except in private studios which are few and far between. 

I searched on and off for a while but couldn´t find anywhere where I could make and fire my own pieces without having to take lessons which I didn´t need and were very expensive. Then by a stroke of luck a couple of years ago I found somewhere I could take work for glazing and firing. I sacrificed my dining table and a corner of my flat for a 'studio' and started making pots at home. What a wonderful feeling to be able to work with clay again!

I bought a wheel so I could do thrown work, but I also do casting and handbuilding, whatever takes my fancy. Most of my pieces are snaffled by the family (I have a large family!) and occasionally I sell one although I don´t actively seek customers. I don´t want to be in a position where I have to churn things out on demand, I make pots for the pure pleasure of the creative process. Whether it is thrown on the wheel then shaped, like this Roman oil lamp

or a porcelain piece inspired by sea forms the pleasure for me is in the making.