Friday, 29 January 2016

India - first impressions


Garlanded. Shawled. Drummed into the village. Blessed with flowers. Smiles, crossing all language and cultural barriers.

Photo :CSI St. Mary's, Pudukkottai

Photo: CSI St. Mary's Pudukkottai

Photo: CSI St. Mary's Pudukkottai


A cacophony of car, bus, tuctuc and two-wheeler horns. Hindu prayers transmitted by loudspeakers into the streets at 3am. Muslim prayers of varying loudness at 5.30am. Dogs barking. Tamil voices.


Saris and chudithars of every colour and hue imaginable: diamanteed, gilded, embroidered, glittered, sequined, patterned or plain.

Impossibly high stacks of fresh oranges, ping-pong-ball-sized gooseberries, red-gold pomegranates, red bananas and green coconuts. The glitter of (fake) gold jewellery and the gleam of (real) silverware in a store. Flourescent pink candy floss, announced by a ringing bell. A rainbow of rangoli powders on a cart.


Petrol fumes in the street. A pile of rubbish, waiting for the invisible sweeper to clear it away. Madurai jasmine and rose at the flower stall.

Incense in both the temple and the Roman Catholic churches. Spices as you walk past the street vendor.


Garlanded roadside shrines. Sandalwood-streaked foreheads after morning prayers. Dash-board crosses and Jesus bumper stickers.

Neon lit crosses on church roofs. Green and orange garbed pilgrims, barefoot for 200km, walking their prayers to their gods. Tinsel garlanded shrines on vans, bright with lights and loud with song. Peacock-feathered kavadi burdens carried on the dark shoulders of half-naked young men. Towering stone edifices that have stood for a thousand years.

New churches, loose-wired and unfinished as the community raise enough rupees to complete the job.


Beautiful striped and green tea gardens, in which hidden dangers lurk: leopard, king cobra, wild dogs, elephant, sloth bear...

Four species of monkey in a day. A black and yellow Hornbill, gliding effortlessly into the trees above us. Butterflies and birds in the college campus. The deadly embrace of the Strangler Fig. Poinsettia bushes, five feet high. Porcupine poo. An elephant's footprint in the earth, the size of a dinner plate, then seeing the tusker in a clearing on the other side of the river. The chattering call of a red whiskered bulbul.


Fried okra. Chilli chicken. Dhosa. Idli. Coconut chutney. Fried fish. Biryani. Chicken fried rice. Chai - sweet beyond belief.

Sticky-sweet orange Jelabi. Banana fritter. Tender coconut juice. Bread omelette. Paratha. Mutton stew. White rice. Raita. Curd.

And so many other things besides...but they are blogs to be written at another time.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Been there...and back again!

Well, wifi was a bit sketchy while I've been away, so I didn't manage to post on the Scribbles as I'd hoped. Those who are friends with me on facebook will have seen some of the photos I shared, and I will blog about some of my experiences - just not yet.

The body is still recovering from the journey and my mind is trying to readjust to UK life, especially as Mr Squidge had the much needed op on his back last Friday and is now officially at the start of a long recovery period (at least 6 weeks, restricted mobility). Thank God the op appears to have been successful - my challenge will be to stop him doing things he shouldn't while trying to keep him occupied enough so he doesn't get bored...

Anyway, I am back, am processing all that I have learnt and experienced and will share it with you when I'm less tired.

One of the three huge welcome banners in Pudukkottai village

It had to be done...
Hoping there's one somewhere without me blinking...

(Mind a novice sari purchaser, I didn't realise they were sold with a 'blouse bit'; an extra piece on the sari length to enable you to make a matching blouse. Trying to tuck an extra metre of fabric round my waist was something of a challenge for Sarah - Rev Benjamin's wife - who dressed me! Now got to practise at home so I can wear a sari for the talk at church...)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A little piece of flash - The letter

Today, I'm cheating a bit here, because The Letter is being published over on the Randoms' website, not here on the Scribbles, to help promote our latest anthology: Something Rich and Strange.

It's a prequel or scene setter, I suppose, for the events you'll read about in my anthology story - Gold - which combines what might have happened after Ali Baba discovered his fortune around the time of the Gold Rush with legends of American Indian gold mines...


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Today's the day...

The case is packed.

I'm ready to go.

And yet...

It doesn't feel real. I can't quite believe that tonight, I'll be on that plane, at the start of a journey that will take me thousands of miles from home and family and into an exciting, scary, wonderful new experience.

The last 24 hours have been manic - not least because Mr Squidge needs surgery on his back quite urgently. And he's been booked in for a date prior to my return. Cue lots of organising of lifts for the family (the back's so bad Mr S can't drive at all) and priming the kids on how best to support their dad and look after themselves.

At least I know I'll be coming back to an immobile hubbie, lots of busy evenings (T is in two shows, running over consecutive weeks) and a long rehabilitation period after that. It would've been a lot worse had things got so bad, Mr S needed to be rushed in as an emergency - which we have been told is a real possibility.

Can't do much about it all while I'm away - I have to trust and pray that things will run smoothly and that the surgery is a success. And blogs might be a little thin on the ground, even after I come home.

So...I'm going, with trepidation and anxiety, but secure in the knowledge that there'll be one who'll oversee everything both here and in India over the next ten days and we have lots of prayer support.

Stay well and stay tuned for the next big Squidge adventure!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A new anthology

Just before Christmas, Something Rich and Strange was published, the second anthology from the Random Writers.

It's been well received so far - there are some stunning stories, written by both published and unpublished (as yet. Watch this space) authors. To raise awareness of the anthology, the Randoms have written short pieces of flash or blogs, which will appear on the website over the next few weeks.

My own flash, The Letter, is a kind of scene setter for the events you'll read about in Gold, my contribution to the anthology. It'll be posted up on the Randoms' website on the 21st January, but there will be other juicy morsels before and after. Today, you can read a fascinating encounter with wolves by L Wilson for example. I'll make sure a reminder pops up here during my absence...

Monday, 11 January 2016

Why don't things ever run smooth?

If you're a regular reader of the Scribbles, you 'll know that in just a few days time I'm off to India. Preparations are well under way, as described in my previous post., I ended up at our local Walk-in Centre.

Just what I needed.

When the alarm went off at 6am this morning, I woke and rubbed my eye; something fell in it. Now, I am prone to things in my eye, particularly eyelashes. Those I can cope with; they're big enough to see and fish out, and they're not actually too painful. I know they're there, but they don't do any damage.

Today was different. Whatever went into my eye felt like a boulder. I couldn't see anything, but every time I blinked... aaargh! I got up, gave in to the ocassional stamp of pain (you know when it's just too painful and you want to rub your eye but you can't, so you do a bit of a stampy thing instead? No? Just me then...) I made sandwiches for everyone, certain I still had something in my eye because it felt as though it was moving around...

As soon as Mr Squidge and the kids left for work and school, I went down to the Walk-in Centre.

The very cheerful male nurse had a look in my eye, couldn't see anything. But the orange drops he added indicated I had scratched my cornea quite badly, in spite of my best efforts not to rub.

Prospect? It'll be sore and take a few days to settle down. Keep washing it out with Optrex in the meantime and let it heal.

Just what I need to take to India with me...

Friday, 8 January 2016

Preparations and packing

I'm finally beginning to get excited by the thought that - in just over a week's time - I'll be in Southern India.

We've had the itinerary through, I've a pile of medication growing in the bedroom (just in case!), a folder full of paperwork, and I've started to collect things that might be suitable for gifts (balloons, pencils, notebooks etc). I have a lovely new journal (thanks, Mum!) and a set of small plain paper notebooks for sketching, as I'm sure there will be lots to record in words and pictures.

And then there's the 'home' stuff. I have two teenagers and a hubbie who are all quite capable of looking after themselves, but I'm trying to get as much of the Christmas washing and ironing done as I can beforehand, I need a trial run on-line grocery shop (Mr Squidge is having some terrible problems with his back at the moment so he can't walk more than 500 metres without severe discomfort) and a list of jobs like washing and ironing - and who's responsible for them!

Monday I'll fetch the case out of the loft and start packing...

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Why 2016 is going to be Music to my ears...

Mr Squidge gave me a huge surprise at Christmas - a new music system.

With valve technology...apparently.

We did have one - an old Bose model (inherited from a distant relative who died many years ago) which was temperamental at the best of times. (And although Bose players are good, it bugs me that you can't alter the bass level -I don't like feeling the bass beat in my chest!) We also had a very old CD/cassette tape/radio system, which over the years had stopped playing tapes and CD's, but we'd not got rid of it because we had the Bose...which didn't word so well, etc etc.

Lovely - can now play all my favourite CD's and adjust the bass! And as you can see, there's plenty of CD's to choose from. I have a rather eclectic taste in music - you're as likely to find Muse as Music to Watch Girls By, Taize chants or Tom Jones, Eurythmics or Enya and so on.

The CD shelf

One thing that's always saddened me is the move to digital music; I have a basketful of cassette tapes of music I can't find on CD which are linked to my student years and the time my dad worked in Oman for a while (and brought us back pirated copies of tapes I could never afford to buy for myself. The job in Oman also bought my first real sound system - a record player with tape deck and radio! I'll never forget the day Dad came home on leave and there was music blasting out of all three of us kids' bedrooms because he'd bought one for each of us...) Those tapes - and the memories linked to them - have been gathering dust in a basket for the last twenty years.

Not any more!

Because Mr Squidge also bought me a little gadget that plays old cassette tapes and records them as mp3 files so you can plug a memory stick into the new music system and play them! Hooray!!

The natty little gadget itself - smaller than a Walkman

Needless to say, I've not played with the technology yet, but Mr Squidge has; yesterday I heard Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf for the first time in literally yonks, followed by a bit of The Light Programme, a jazz band we saw busking on the streets of Newcastle.

I've sorted out the tapes I'd like to capture...the blue tapes are all pirated copies! There's a fab Disco double cassette with hours of 70's disco...The Damned - Anyhting Goes - from a gig I saw in Wolverhampton while at uni...Andrew Lloyd Webber's Variations which our dance teacher used at Limehurst (Mrs Freakley - big hair, always in a leotard!)...Adam Ant, from my thirteenth birthday...'Love Songs' and the B52's...Prince, 1999...King (Another uni gig - Get your boots on!) So many memories, flooding back.

The ones that DEFINITELY need to be digitilized!

I reckon 2016 is going to be full of rediscovered music...and memories.