"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)

Author Archive

Madras Mix


The omnipresence of snacks;
in this case meat or vegetarian “cutlets”, puri, vegetarian samosas and meat samosas,
with a choice of spicy pickle accompaniments:



Pictures taken by the roadside in Chennai

Beyond The Temple Walls, Part 4: Policing Duties


Posing or policing, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one:

There are times when I can be fooled into wondering if the sun has still not set on the British Empire…


Picture taken outside the Kapaleeshwarer Temple in Chennai

Beyond The Temple Walls, Part 3: Seeing The Pattern


A woman sketches a kolam pattern on the pavement outside her shop



Picture taken outside the Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Beyond The Temple Walls, Part 2: An Offering


A boy prepares temple offerings.
Devotees give fresh coconuts, fruits and flowers in lieu of sacrifice.



Picture taken outside the Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Beyond The Temple Walls, Part 1: Who Will buy?


Just beyond the walls of any major temple an unofficial itinerant market invariably appears;
the Hindu equivalent of a Cathedral gift shop and tea-room.



Picture of a flute seller taken outside the Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Temple Moments Part 5: The Wishing Tree


In the temple grounds grows a “tree of wishes”.
The threads tied around its boughs represent the prayers of women hoping to find happiness through marriage.
The miniature cot suspended from its branch is a plea to be blessed with a child.



Picture taken in Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai
The libretto to Dvořák’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka can be found here

Temple Moments Part 4: A Man Rejected



Picture taken in Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Temple Moments Part 3: Red Gold And Blue


An azure canopy bathes all beneath it in a still pool of aquamarine;
a temple devotee passes by..


Picture taken in Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Temple Moments Part 2: Dreams And Visions


An old man dreams temple dreams, while his young neighbour sees iPhone visions.


Picture taken in Kapaleeshwarer Temple, Chennai

Temple Moments Part 1: Making An Entrance


Picture taken by the ancient gateway of Kapaleeshwarer Temple in Mylapore, Chennai


Up And Away!

Enough is enough.

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Today we fly.
Not very far;
Just over 550 km (350 miles) across the southern tip of the Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats.

From the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, India’s opposite coast.

To Chennai, state capital of Tamil Nadu, and the Madras of former times.

A friend has an installation on show in the city.


And I need to get out of my house!

The weather forecast mentions more rain in Chennai.

Not to worry:
I must learn not to fret over that which I cannot control.

Picture of a puddled lane taken in Fort Cochin.

In Hiding


The rain stops and the sun appears.
But our chickens are skeptics.
They remain under shelter in what’s left of the yard.

Picture taken in our side-yard.

Responding To Rain

China Weather


The photograph is copied without permission from The Guardian
The advertisement is currently doing the rounds on Indian television

Puzzling Appetites



According to the advertising blurb:

“The new Cadbury Celebrations Rich Dry Fruit Collection is a tribute to the making of this fine chocolate gift. 
Its exotic ingredients are chosen with great love and care. 
When such a gift is given with love, the love comes back to the giver and everyone else responsible for making this chocolate.”


For my own part, I cannot help puzzling over the exact relationship between that man of mature years and the much younger recipient of his rich dry fruit collection.

Cartoon taken without permission from The New Yorker
Cadbury advertisement currently being screened across multiple Indian television channels

An Encroachment Of Dampness

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Picture taken in Fort Cochin

In Reprise

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It now seems a distant memory but a few months back this lane appeared to be a bustling shopping centre.
A large film-set had been constructed in just over a week.

Kamath & Kamath, like almost all Indian movies, was showing in cinemas within six months of filming the final shot.
Sadly, it bombed both with the critics and at the box-office


Even the DVD has long since been remaindered.

Picture taken in Fort Cochin

Reflecting On Rain



Battening Down The Hatches

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The roof terrace is a sorry sight.

Since my return to India the rain has barely ceased.
This was something of a miscalculation.
I choose to visit my family in friends in Britain and America specifically during June and July for a reason:
to avoid the worst of Kerala’s monsoon.

This year, however, the rains have proved excessively heavy and markedly prolonged.
In the last few days Cochin airport has been closed for days at a time, schools sat empty, the ferry to the mainland was suspended,
and my roof-terrace became a dangerous place to visit.

As monsoon storms lashed the house, the sound if my hard-wood blinds beating against the terrace’s walls worried me during the day and kept me awake a night.

Yesterday Sebastian, my carpenter, came to fix the problem.
He and his workmate have permanently locked the lower edges of the blinds to the walls with heavy-duty fastenings.
I am not quite sure how this will affect the annual repaint. At that stage we might have to think again.
But sleep came more easily last night.


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The expression “batten down the hatches”  probably originated in 1867
Pictures taken on my roof terrace.

Hide And Seek

grim reaper

Cartoon taken, without permission, from The New Yorker Magazine

Morning’s Mysteries

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Picture taken outside Fort Cochin’s seminary chapel

Inaugurating Change


Whenever a new venture is about to start in Kerala, be it grand or relatively modest, an inauguration ceremony launches the project.
Whatever the religious beliefs – or lack of belief – of those involved, fruits and flowers are proffered, and an oil lamp is lit:
a remnant, perhaps, of the persistent power of apotropaic prayer.

It is a custom which unites Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains and even the Marxist Communists of this state.

Picture taken at the inauguration of a new ayurvedic centre at Tom’s Old Mansion in Fort Cochin, Kerala

Climbing Through Shadow

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Picture taken from “Calvary” Mount Saint Bernard Monastery, England

Through The Watches Of The Night

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Picture taken after Compline in the Abbey Church of Mount Saint Bernard’s Trappist monastery, Leicestershire, England

To Its Setting….

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Picture taken after Vespers in the Trappist monastery of Mount Saint Bernard, Leicestershire, England