Picture a perfect tropical beach. The palm trees. The white sand. The sun in a cloudless sky above a calm blue sea. That’s Mamallapuram. Now look just behind the beach. Are those statues, monuments?
Yes, they are. This town was once a thriving international port. The Chinese came here. The Romans came here. Sailors and traders from around the known world came here. An 8th century text describes how ‘the ships rode at anchor bent to the point of breaking, laden as they were with wealth, big-trunked elephants and gems of nine varieties in heaps‘.
And so it was that just before this time, King Navasimharavan and his successor Rajasimharavan built a series of magnificent temples portraying the events of a great Hindu epic Mahabharata. There are pavilions. There are shrines shaped as temple chariots. There are imposing carved elephants. Here: you can wander round as I did, together with many Indian Sunday trippers. I simply enjoyed these monumental carvings, without going deeply into their history. I was quite simply too exhausted by then.
The Shore Temple.
Sunday afternoon at the Five Rathas
Later I ambled round town. I bought soap and a toothbrush – remember, I hadn’t planned to spend the night here when I left The Hotel from Hell in Chennai. I got a few more souvenirs to take home. I ate on the open terrace of a sheltered restaurant, finding easy company in fellow-travellers. It was a perfect day. My last day. I’d be getting up in the morning to go back to Chennai, pack, get to the airport and … fly home.
Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, one night in 1961, Berlin became a divided city. At first there was merely barbed wire fencing, then a wall. It was all done in such a hurry that mistakes were made. One tiny part of Kreuzberg that belonged to the Eastern sector got isolated in the West. The Americans – for it was in their zone – could do nothing about this unremarkable patch. It became an unloved and unlovely rubbish dump.
Then along came Osman Kalin, an immigrant Turk. He wanted a vegetable patch. He cleared the land and started to plant seeds. As his patch became productive, he gave vegetables to schools, to the local church, to anyone in need. He cobbled together a rather ramshackle tree house. He became something of a local hero.
Initially, the East didn’t mind. But when East Berliners successfully started to tunnel under his patch and escape he came under suspicion. The authorities came to interrogate him, and he welcomed them in his usual hospitable way. They gave up and left him alone.
In 1989, the Wall fell. A newly united Berlin City Council began to see Osman’s ramshackle domain as an embarrassment. They gave him notice to quit. The local and wider community was horrified. 25,000 people signed a petition demanding he be allowed to go on growing his vegetables.
He stayed. He’s 95 now, and doesn’t work so much on his vegetable patch, though his son does. He lives in a flat nearby rather than in the tree house. He’s still a much-loved local hero.
An entry for Six Word Saturday. In her post, Debbie too has chosen to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall
I really don’t like November. It’s dank, dismal, dreary and depressing, despite being my elder daughter’s birthday month (my Bonfire Night baby). I need a project to cheer me up.
I’ve found one. I’ll take at least one photo in the walled garden, every single day throughout the month, come rain, come shine.
Then on Thursday I read Amy’s blog post in which she celebrates the changing season in Yosemite with a glorious gallery of photos. She’s joined Sue’s blogging challenge called, of course, Changing Seasons. That seems to be a perfect peg to hang my photos on.
My shots today show the garden on a thoroughly Novemberish sort of Friday: raining, of course. Later on this month, I’ll post again. Whatever the weather, I hope it’ll show that even in November, beginning with the final vestiges of summer, and winter setting in towards the end of the month, that the walled garden is a fine place to be.
Regular readers will know I’ve got into the habit, once a month or so, of revisiting an old post. And I’m reminded of what October used to mean in France. Blackberrying’s over now in England (the devil spits on the fruit as soon as October kicks in, didn’t you know?), but my inner-Frenchwoman has been squirreling away scavenged apples, pears, mushrooms – even a few unimpressive walnuts. It all reminds me of France, where foraging is a way of life…
‘All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin’ *
I’ve written before about the ‘au cas où’ bag: the carrier you always have with you on a walk, ‘just in case’ something tasty turns up and demands to be taken home and eaten.
Well, at this time of year, it isn’t really a case of ‘au cas où’ . You’re bound to find something. A fortnight ago, for instance, Mal and I went on a country stroll from Lieurac to Neylis. We had with us a rucksack and two large bags, and we came home with just under 5 kilos of walnuts, scavenged from beneath the walnut trees along the path. A walk through the hamlet of Bourlat just above Laroque produced a tidy haul of chestnuts too.
Yesterday, we Laroque walkers were among the vineyards of Belvèze-du-Razès. The grapes had all been harvested in the weeks before, but luckily for us, some bunches remained on the endless rows of vines which lined the paths we walked along. We felt no guilt as we gorged on this fruit all through the morning. The grapes had either been missed at harvest-time, or hadn’t been sufficiently ripe. They were unwanted – but not by us.
The walnuts we’re used to in the Ariège are replaced by almonds over in the Aude. You have to be careful: non-grafted trees produce bitter almonds, not the sweet ones we wanted to find. But most of us returned with a fine haul to inspect later. Some of us found field mushrooms too.
Today, the destination of the Thursday walking group was the gently rising forested and pastoral country outside Foix known as la Barguillère. It’s also known locally as an area richly provided with chestnut trees. Any wild boar with any sense really ought to arrange to spend the autumn there, snuffling and truffling for the rich pickings. We walked for 9 km or so, trying to resist the temptation to stop and gather under every tree we saw. The ground beneath our feet felt nubbly and uneven as we trod our way over thousands of chestnuts, and the trees above threw further fruits down at us, popping and exploding as their prickly casings burst on the downward journey.
As our hike drew to an end, so did our supply of will-power. We took our bags from our rucksacks and got stuck in. So plentiful are the chestnuts here that you can be as picky as you like. Only the very largest and choicest specimens needed to make it through our rigorous quality control. I was restrained. I gathered a mere 4 kilos. Jacqueline and Martine probably each collected 3 times as much. Some we’ll use, some we’ll give to lucky friends.
Now I’d better settle myself down with a dish of roasted chestnuts at my side, and browse through my collections of recipes to find uses for all this ‘Food for Free’.
* Two lines from an English hymn sung at Harvest Festival season: ‘Come, ye thankful people, come’
You can’t beat East Asia for power lines. When we arrived in Seoul for our South Korean adventure three years ago, we were stupefied by the skyscrapers, charmed by the traditional hanoks. But what we couldn’t take our eyes from were these.
Are there enough lines here for you Becky? Hey Jude? How about you? It was your post that put me in mind of these beauties.
I’m looking for lines. Most obviously, they call to mind buildings, railways, pavements, washing lines, power lines: man-made kinds of things. But Mother Nature does lines too, as we observed yesterday at Harlow Carr Gardens in Harrogate. Lines of still-summery oak leaves edged against the sky. Veins, dark against the now-glowing colours of the leaves. A tree trunk reflected into the water as one long sinuous line.