A new angle on a ferry trip

Coming back on the overnight ferry from Rotterdam to Hull last week, I had a lot of fun playing with my camera.  Most shots celebrated the sea, the shipping, the grungy industrial shore side, and I’ll share some of those soon.

But as the sun was setting, my eye was caught by these passengers on the decks above.  They didn’t know it, but I thought they made quite fine silhouettes set against the angled railings of the deck.

My response to today’s Ragtag Challenge: Angle.

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The wind, the wind. The sea, the sea

Wind turbines near Zeebrugge.

I love wind turbines.  I love to see them set against the skyline, and marching across the crest of a distant line of hills.  And this week, I loved to see them near the coast, their legs in the sea, a gritty port-side industrial landscape behind them.

These are wind turbines near Zeebrugge, near Rotterdam, and near Hull.

In response to today’s Ragtag Challenge: Wind.

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Indian Journeys: A Local Train Journey with a Dramatic Ending

It was my last day in India.  I woke up to driving rain – the first I’d seen – a raging temperature and a sore throat.  But there was shopping to be done, packing to be done, general busyness.  I forced myself through the day, feeling worse all the time.

Chennai Station (Wikimedia Commons: PlaneMad)

I eventually made it to the station where I planned to catch a train to the airport: a local service with a quick journey time.  How was I to know that the train would fill and fill and fill until people were hanging from the doorways in true Indian Travel Documentary style?  With me crushed in the very middle of it all, feeling iller by the second.  Actually, ‘crushed’ doesn’t even begin to cover it: the only reason I didn’t fall to the floor was that it was physically impossible.

An image from Wikimedia Commons (archer10) gives the general idea…

At a certain point, I couldn’t stand it any more, and somehow forced myself and my luggage off the train, with everyone shouting behind me ‘No!  No!  Airport is two more stations!’  By then though, I was sprawled across the platform, vomiting and vomiting as the train departed without me.  A lovely man tried to help.  He brought me water which he poured over me, washing my face and making me drink.  A concerned crowd gathered, but by then I had lost all pride as I lay there, being repeatedly sick.

Two policewomen turned up, at as much at a loss as anyone else.  Finally, they made a decision.  They hauled me quite roughly, as if I were a dangerous demonstrator rather than a rather sick and weak woman onto a train – a fairly empty train, now the rush period was over – and chucked me on the floor.

At the airport station, we were joined by a rather handsome male officer who carried me, ‘Gone with the Wind’ style up the airport steps (a shame I was way too ill to appreciate it), and heaved me into a rickshaw, together with my luggage.  Our destination was the airport medical centre.  I was examined and at last a decision was made.  Hospital.  An ambulance appeared and I was dumped on a stretcher.  Bang!  The ambulance driver revelled in using his siren – who wouldn’t if it meant actually moving in the streets of Chennai?  I was at the Sri Balaji Hospital .

I remember little of the rest of the day. But the British Consulate must have been told, and someone there must have dealt with the fact that I was no longer travelling back to the UK that night.

This is the last of my ‘Indian Journey’ posts.  I’ll write more about my trip later though.  You haven’t heard about the Rainforest Retreat, Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, French Colonial India, Couchsurfing in Thanjavur, Mamallapuram … or life in an Indian hospital….

Today’s entry for the Ragtag prompt: Sick

Indian Journeys: The Auto-rickshaw

I arrived at Bangalore airport at about 6.00 in the morning. There were several hours of baggage handling, airport confusion and a taxi-ride through town, with auto-rickshaw drivers weaving and buzzing round us like angry wasps, before I reached my small family run hotel in a quiet residential quarter of town.

The garden at Terrace Gardens Guest House, Bangalore.

I stepped out of the car to the calls of loud birds yelling and whooping, and shortly after, found myself escorted to a roof terrace, where I gazed at distant huge birds with enormous wingspans (eagles?  vultures?) coasting lazily on the thermals. Attentive staff served me with unending supplies of small soft spongy pancakes – idli – with thin aromatic and spicy dipping sauces and much-needed coffee.  It was 9.00, but my body knew that back in England it was 3.30 a.m.

Unable to rest, I set off to explore the quiet back streets near the hotel.  Dozens of women were out in the back streets, crouching over their handle-less brooms, sweeping and re-sweeping the pavements.  Stallholders on street corners sold bananas, brown and well past their sell-by dates, or coconut juice straight from the shell.  A few bored monkeys sat about on air-conditioning extractor pipes.  At a building site, a bullock stood patiently while two men shovelled rubble into the cart it drew.

Delivery from the Builder’s Yard. This picture was actually taken in Pondicherry a couple of weeks later. But it’s a scene I often saw.

Then I reached the main hub of Bangalore, MG Road (Mahatma Gandhi Road) with the pavements, such as there were, thronged with pedestrians.   In the road itself, cars, vans, trucks, auto-rickshaws, all constantly blaring their horns raced along, over-taking, under-taking.  However would I find the courage to cross? Answer.  By finding a group of others also wanting to get to the other side and introducing myself into their midst.  There’s safety in numbers.

I hadn’t wandered too far when I was picked up by an auto-rickshaw driver.  He could probably see ‘Arrived from Europe this morning’ tattooed across my forehead.  He offered to show me round for 10 rupees.  I wasn’t green enough to believe that, but I was exhausted, and it wasn’t an unattractive proposition.  It was memorable – and fun.

My first friend in Bangalore: the rickshaw driver who took me on a tour of the city.

He proved an amiable guide whose English, while obviously hugely better than my Kannada, often led to mutual incomprehension.  Still, he hared round a variety of sites introducing me to the city he loved. ‘This is my Parliament building.  This is my national bird.  This is my Rajah’s Palace.’  And he waited while I ‘did’ Bengalaru Palace, one of the homes of the Raja Wodeyar.  As the Lonely Planet says, you are personally shown round by an aged retainer, who is rather keener to show you fly-blown pictures of the Royal Family than the quirky furniture and fittings.  Seedy but fun.  It’s not often you see cattle grazing in royal gardens.

In front of Bangalore’s Parlaiament building. My friendly driver took this shot.

He was in the pay of various shops.  Of course he was.  And he took me to some.  I was quite clear that I was not going to buy anything.  Not on my first day.  This proved to be an effective bargaining tool to bring prices tumbling to the level the shopkeeper planned to sell at in the first place.  Reader, I bought a couple of things, and nor did I regret it.

My new friend urged me to ring him whenever I needed transport in his fifteen year old rickshaw.  I didn’t.  But later that day I wished I had.  A different driver saw me puzzling over my map, and offered to help.  But his help turned out to mean trying to persuade me into shop after shop to buy. When he realised I really wasn’t going to buy anything, he dumped me.

I was in a poor part of town (where? where?) and with a 500 rupee note as my lowest form of currency.  When the average meal costs seven, I knew that offering this note in shops simply wasn’t an option.  I trailed round back streets busy with rickshaw drivers repairing their trucks, vendors splicing huge melons and squash to sell, garland makers fashioning powerfully scented jasmine garlands for Diwali, sheep drinking at doorways, solitary cows chewing at a pile of rubbish, tent villages…. until I finally found a travel agent, where they changed down my note.

And then I took a third rickshaw, asking for an address near ‘home’.  He took me directly there.  Food, an internet cafe, and home to bed, long after dark.  Night falls in a matter of minutes, at 6 o’clock.  My exhausted body knew quite well that the day was over.

 

This is my contribution to today’s Ragtag Challenge: Taxi

Peace in the Garden

We’ve had Team London here this week: an engagingly exhausting three year old and his baby sister make great company, but we’ve had a tendency to disappear to our beds not long after they do, and be snoring sweetly by 10.00 o’clock at the latest.  However, in among exploring York, farmyard life, a canal, and the Wild Woods at the bottom of the garden, we had a day at Harlow Carr, the RHS gardens in Harrogate.

It provided William with plenty of Things to Do Before he’s 11 3/4:  roll down a hill; go barefoot; watch a bird and have fun with sticks for instance.  He and Zoë were very happy.

But for us, despite their bright enthusiasm for all there was to see and do, it was a green oasis, a haven of peace.  We were content, strolling along the quiet paths, or beside a stream, sharing our space with bees, butterfies and birds.

Click on any image to view full size.

My entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: Peace

Nights with a Little Owl

When I stay with my children in London, in Barcelona and in Bolton, come bedtime the streets are as silent as a monastery.  Though to be fair, in London we can sometimes hear the foxes in their lairs near the railway line yelping like very cross babies.

I live at the edge of a village some distance from Ripon.  That’s usually a pretty silent place to sleep too.  But for the last few nights I’ve been woken at about 3.00 o’clock by this…..

It’s a Little Owl.  He (she?) is extremely persistent.  He sits on the roof, I think, and keeps up a constant calling: sometimes measured, sometimes more agitated.  The other night, after an hour or more I fell asleep again.  Little Owl didn’t.

I’ve never seen him.  It’s not surprising.  He’s probably only about 22cm. long, and weighs in at perhaps 180 grams.  The farmland which surrounds us will suit him very well, supplying insects and small mammals.  He’s probably breeding now.  I wonder if he’s found a place in the old barn which is currently home to a young family of rather messy blackbirds?

This species was only introduced here at the end of the 19th century, though his kind are widespread throughout Europe Asia and North Africa.  Despite his being a noisy blighter, he’s very welcome here.

I have no photos of my own.  Enjoy these images from contributors to the Unsplash collection.

This is my contribution to the Ragtag Challenge: Night.

Click on any image to view full size.

Pretty in Pink

Overlooking the lake at the Himalayan Gardens, Grewelthorpe.

I couldn’t be doing with pink when I was younger.  I thought it was an itsy-bitsy sort of colour, suitable to be worn by annoying little girls of the Violet Elizabeth Bott persuasion (You do know who I’m talking about here, don’t you?  Violet Elizabeth was the lisping, spoiled creature who tormented Richmal Crompton’s delightfully grubby-kneed and accident-prone Just William, as popular now as when he was first created in 1922).

I declined to dress my young daughters in pink, or to wear it myself.  I despised its sugar-sweet prettiness.

These days I’m rather less hardline.  I even have a raspberry pink shirt.

All the same, I think pink is happiest in the garden.  It’s here that flowers can celebrate the colour in all its variety, from the softest most delicate shades of baby pink through to vibrant, vivacious flamingo pink.  Pastel pink.  Shocking pink.  And pinks that use flower names: cherry blossom; rose; fuschia; carnation; cyclamen; dogwood.

Here’s a picture gallery of May time flowers taken over the last few years.  All of them are pink.  And I like every single one.

Many of these pictures were taken in our garden; in our village; at Newby Hall; and at the Himalayan Gardens at Grewelthorpe.  It’s my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: pink.

Click on any image to view full size.