"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)


Welcoming The Toddy Tapper

The toddy tapper called this morning.
I have been enjoying the fruits of his labour since breakfast.

Picture taken from the guest-house verandah in Koottickal, Kerala

Time For A Trim

It has been almost two months since the coconut palm in my front yard was harvested.
Standing by the gates is, once more, a little hazardous:
A coconut landing on your head can lead to serious injury.

But as I finished breakfast this morning, the gate-bell sounded.
Shaji had summoned Shiva Ram, our “kannakan” (coconut tree climber).

Shiva Ram sat on the porch steps for a few minutes, sharpening his machete,

Then scampered twenty or so feet up the trunk of our palm tree.

He cleared some of the lower branches

And released a couple of dozen coconuts.

Four hours later,  Dalila had already incorporated a few of them into our lunch.


Pictures taken in the front yard.

Listening For Silent Melodies


To and fro,
He struggled with burdens.

All the while listening
To a silent melody
Which sang in his heart.


An Die Musik

O fairest art how oft in troubled hours blighted,
When I am trapped and lost on life’s wild race,
Hast thou with love on this poor heart alighted
And flown it gently to a better place.

From thy sweet heart a sigh so often drifted,
A chord of blessed harmony and bliss.
Thou show’dst me heaven’s holy light uplifted.
O fairest art I thank thee so for this.

Franz von Schober  (1796 – 1882)


Pictures taken in Cochin 

The Grim Reaper

Lunch is disturbed by the sound of thuds and crashes.

The staff have kindly closed my front door but palm fronds and coconuts falling to the ground are not easily muted.

I put down my sandwich to take a look.

The toddy harvester is perched high in our coconut palm, perhaps thirty feet above the ground. He uses a single tree-branch as a ladder, to climb the first ten feet. Then, having looped a rope sling around his ankles, scampers up the rest of the trunk with kangaroo-like strides.

The coconuts are falling quickly. With them come the lower palm fronds, which had begun to droop down on to the house and garden wall.

In the past I have tried not to witness this harvest. Watching impotently, as coconuts smash violently into the shrubs, walls and gate lights, can feel as if you are trapped in some fun-fair nightmare.

He slithers effortlessly down the palm tree and chops the tops from five coconuts. We all drink the tender coconut water.

Shaji and Anu start to tidy the harvest rampage.


Harmony is restored.



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Enjoying their Bounty

The word Kerala means “Land of the Coconut”

Coconut palms grow along our coast


The backwaters


And even cast their shadows in the city.


In the cooler climes of Europe, coconut palms have always appeared exotic:

“The Taste of Paradise”

Here in India, advertisements for coconut are instead for grooming products.

Coconuts require regular harvesting if you are to avoid head injuries.


A coconut palm grows in my front yard.

It is remarkably fecund, producing well over two hundred coconuts a year.

Through the rumblings of our May-time thunder storms, I often hear loud resonating thumps:

The sound of coconuts tumbling to the ground.

On opening the front doors yesterday Sumant, my houseboy, found several newly fallen coconuts.

A little later Dalila, the cook, arrived.

She took the coconuts through to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.

Then promptly returned to announce:

“Sir, We have produced twins!”