"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)


Christmas Blues

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In Fort Cochin

Christmas Eve: From Darkness Into Light

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Anu makes a final inspection of the roof terrace.
Tomorrow the celebrations begin…


Preparing To Celebrate


Dalila watches Babu, her cousin and my electrician-cum-plumber, as he wires Christmas lights around our roof terrace;
Anu washes the terracotta pots.

We prepare to celebrate Christmas.

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A Maiden’s Prayer



Picture of Robin’s mother in prayer on Christmas evening, before the party festivities begin.

A Cruise For Christmas

Four Men In A Boat

Christmas Day was spent with friends.
Robin invited Anu and I to join his family’s celebrations.

The fun started immediately:
Robin and his brother, Jolly, took us in one of their fishing canoes through the canals and lakes which back onto the family home.

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Beautiful scenery, gentle warm breezes, just a few bottles of cool beer, and a lot of laughter.
All served with the companionship of kind friends.
It’s the perfect recipe for a very happy Christmas.


Pictures taken in Chellanam, on Christmas afternoon.

Christmas Cakes

Before the clock struck eight this morning,
Anu had summoned an auto-rickshaw to the house.
We were off to the local shops.

On Christmas Eve, as soon as the bakery opens, I buy Christmas cakes.
It’s a bulk purchase:
for ourselves
and for small thank-you gifts,
to the many people who, with Shaji Dalila and Anu, keep our household running smoothly throughout the year.



Pictures taken in the Muslim Bakery, Kunnumpuram, Fort Cochin.

Helping Hands

Making our way to the local shops this morning, I was struck by just how many houses and hotels were being repainted:
part of the preparations for Christmas and this year’s lamentably quiet “high season”.

Fort Cochin’s economy is largely dependent on tourism.
After-shocks from the West’s economic woes are having considerable impact.


Picture taken today in Fort Cochin, five days before Christmas.

That Special Time Of The Year

Our house is in relative chaos:
The exterior is being repainted;
Two of the bathrooms are being re-tiled and re-plumbed;
The interior must be repainted before my January guests arrive;
And family are stopping-over this month, either en route to, or returning from, our ancestral home.

But everything stops for Christmas.
Despite the sheer impracticability of it, I decided that our Christmas tree must be assembled and decorated.

This morning Anu brought it down from storage, just as he did last year.

With so many workmen in the house to feed, Dalila was far too busy to join Anu and I in setting up our tree
– for the first few minutes.
As we tried to remember how the tree was assembled, and the sound of English Christmas carols filled the house from our music-centre, she came through into the hall:
first to check up on us; then to join in the fun.
Even Shaji left supervising his workforce, to ensure our efforts were up to scratch.

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During the procedure there was, almost inevitably, a power-cut.
Fortunately, the light was sufficient to finish our task.
By seven o’clock this evening, when Shaji, Dalila and the assembled workmen were leaving,
power had been restored,

And a group portrait could be taken.

Fun And Games


There are many ways to celebrate this festival.

One of the most touching is when friends, having heard that your plans for a family Christmas collapsed,


Invite you as “Guest of Honour” to share Christmas evening with their family.


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Then enchant you with the innocent entertainment of song, dance, party games and laughter,

All served with warm affection.





Christmas Morning


A walk along Fort Cochin sea front on Christmas morning.



Happy Christmas!


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To The Commonwealth Of Nations

My staff formally extend to you the season’s greetings.


Informally, Dalila Shaji and Anu wish you:

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Stars In Waiting




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The Ghosts Of Christmas Shopping


As the decades slip past, Christmas shopping can be strangely poignant:

Ghosts of Christmas Past, that we think lie safely buried, merely rest.

They are always ready to be conjured up.


“My fiftieth year had come and gone,

I sat, a solitary man,

In a crowded London shop,

An open book and empty cup

On the marble table-top.”

From Vacillation IV,  by William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)



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Star Gazing


A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey:

The ways deep and the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.

And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

Lying down in the melting snow.

There were times when we regretted

The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,

And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,

And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly

And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

A hard time we had of it.

At the end we preferred to travel all night,

Sleeping in snatches,

With the voices singing in our ears, saying

That this was all folly.


Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,

And three trees on the low sky,

And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

And feet kicking the empty wineskins.

But there was no information, and so we continued

And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.


All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

Journey of the Magi   T.S. Eliot


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The Race To Christmas

The race for Christmas and all its dreams has started.


The fine tuning of my athletic frame and focused mind are almost complete.


“A sari for Dalila, a dhoti for Shaji”

Anu and I have spent weeks psyching-up and are trained in the necessary teamwork skills.

But a man in his fifties and boy in his teens may not be the ideal couple for sari shopping.

Confidence peaks too quickly:

“You think Dalila like this colour, Papa?”

“I’m not sure. What do you think?”


“More baubles for the Christmas tree”

“And paper stars for the roof terrace”


Thank goodness!

We’re on the home-straight.



Deck The Hall…


My son and his beautiful new wife are soon to arrive.

The house must be ready to welcome them – in its sparkling Christmas livery.

The staff have been feverishly busy, ensuring all is as it should be.

On Monday their attention turned to our Christmas tree.



purchased the tree from London, some time back, during the height of summer. And, as serendipity would have it, in the bemused company of both my sons and their partners.

The tree is not small; measuring two metres (seven foot) once assembled. Its weight is considerable: transporting the tree to India cost more, in excess baggage fees, than the original price. With all the traditional paraphernalia of Christmas, it lies boxed up for most of the year, in the roof terrace store-room.

Setting it up is a major task; positively daunting. But fortunately the staff will help me.


Who am I kidding?

They do all the work.

I supervise from my rocking chair, with a cool glass of something in my hand!


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