"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)

renovation

That Time Of The Year..

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House painting begins again and Justin is busy at work..

Picture shows Justin, Dalila’s brother, repainting our portico.


Re-shuttered

The season’s monsoon has drawn its close.
But after three years of typical tropical weather, my roof’s old bamboo blinds have fallen apart.
Pigeons nest in the roof terrace beams, and crows roost at night leaving the floor covered in their droppings.

Sebastian, my carpenter, is busy constructing much sturdier replacements blinds:
lengths of hardwood bound by nylon webbing.

My hope is that they might outlive me.
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Picture of Sebastian and his team taken on my roof terrace in Fort Cochin


The Namesake

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Picture of Anu, my loyal houseboy, refreshing the name on my gate, before the monsoon arrives.


Work In Progress

The sanding-down continues.
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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.
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Picture taken today in Fort Cochin, five days before Christmas.


Restoring A Faded Flower

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Pictures taken during the restoration of the St Thérèse of Lisieux chapel, Fort Cochin


Makeover Month

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With the monsoon safely months away,

Justin and Paul‘s reappearance herald the annual exterior makeover.

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A decidedly upbeat event:

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Road Mending

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The sound of loud chatter assailed me just latterly – noise that had come from outside.

To wit this disturbance – a certain perturbance –  my manservant also espied.

Shaji ran in from the yard’s lofty gate,

He spoke like a prophet or seer:

“Sir, please. Come quickly. No time to be sickly!

Road-roller and workers are here, they’re here – they’re here!

Road-roller and workers are here.”

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Fort Cochin’s new mayor is aware of the prayers that voters have made for their streets.

Casual labour’s been summoned. My dream is they’ll come and create a road fit for aesthetes.

At present it’s pot-holed and traversed by fissures.

Driving’s a challenging feat.

It’s quite hard to ensure, in taxi or rickshaw, one’s bottom remains on the seat, the seat – the seat!

One’s bottom remains on the seat.

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While tarmac is pouring, and neighbours adoring the new mayor’s fair-square policy.

I can’t help but notice this finishing coat is effectively foundation-free.

Beneath the thin layer of asphalt and concrete

Lies soft earth and loose sand combined.

At the monsoon’s returning, we’ll soon be re-learning

If dreams remain merely moonshine, moonshine – moonshine!

If dreams remain merely moonshine.

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With apologies to Edward Lear

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In Exile

The hall furniture has been shifted

And I have been banished.

The sitting room’s redecoration begins today.

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I shall seek asylum in the bedroom.


Home Work

A small fleet of bicycles announces the workers’ arrival.

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The house is due its annual repaint.

Prolonged monsoon rains have prevented a start on the exterior. But work can begin on the first floor (second floor to American readers).

An Air-Conditioning unit needs moving from the house-boy’s room to a guest room. The whole house, plus the roof terrace, needs redecorating.

Shaji, my “house-manager” diligently supervises the work force. Dalila, my cook, prepares food for the men’s lunch. Babu, my electrician, oversees the dismantling and shifting of the AC components. Anu, the house-boy, clears his room and acts as general go-fer.

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Exhausted by the sight of so much activity, I capture the scene for posterity, then ask for a Kingfisher and retire downstairs to recover.


Change And Decay

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The house and yard were cleaned and painted, inside and out, just ten months ago.

But since then the annual monsoon has fallen: five months of rain.

What human hands made spick and span, nature has quietly reclaimed.

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Inside, damp patches have appeared on walls, and a picture has been invaded by moulds,

Front,

 

And back.

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Outside in the yard, walls that gleamed in bright paint a few months ago

Now host algae


And mosses.

 

Once proud gate towers have become outposts of an infant jungle.

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It is time to summon a workforce. The annual repaint is due.

Soon all should be clean and shining bright.

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The Thing In The Corner

When I first viewed the home I now own, I took this picture:

It was impossible to miss one particular feature of the house – the thing in the corner.

Into the bay corner of the sitting room, a walled pool had been sunk. About three feet deep and five feet wide, covered in swimming-pool blue, mosaic tiles, the base resembled a health club jacuzzi.

From the centre of the pool, on a short sturdy column, rose a white concrete, lotus-shaped fountain base. Above the lotus, a golden drum.

Crowning the folly, perched at a rather jaunty angle, sat a massive silver jug.

From the jug’s spout, water could be cascaded to deafening effect.

This fantasy of concrete, ceramics and colour rose about seven feet above a marble floor.

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Somehow, I never felt quite at home with such Levantine exuberance.

On gazing at my newly acquired water feature, it seemed I might have taken a wrong turn and wandered perhaps into an Abu Dhabi shopping mall.

When friends or family visited from Europe or the States, as they said their goodbyes,  I was invariably advised, “If I were you, I would do something about that thing in the corner”.

The problem was, knowing quite what to do.

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For several months, with more urgent renovations needing attention, I turned my back on the thing in the corner, and tried to ignore it.

But one morning, in a paroxysm of decisive action, I made my wishes known to Shaji, my house-manager. The silver jug and golden drum were to be amputated – with immediate effect.

Workers were hastily summoned. A pneumatic drill and hand-held chisels were requisitioned. Emergency surgery was performed.

The feature was now definitely smaller but its crudely pruned form and garish colours still offended.

The walls of the “jacuzzi” were occasionally handy for craftsmen to sit on but the thing in the corner had little function and no aesthetic appeal.

It was neither use nor ornament.

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Three months ago, with the impending arrival of more guests, I was finally spurred into having the pool re-tiled in more suitable colours.

The fountain was tamed: just a quiet trickle of water now falls gently from the white lotus top to the pool below.

Plants were purchased to soften its geometry.

Fish were introduced to its waters.

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Shaji has taken the project to his heart. He is rapidly becoming an expert on aquarium management.

Dalila, my cook, and Anu, my house-boy, are entranced by the various fish.

Babu, my plumber and electrician, now calls by each week, to check on the pump and the piping.

As for me, I have more ambitious developments in mind:

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But for now, I am content to continue sitting with my back to the thing in the corner.

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Patron To The Arts

I bought my home in Kerala eighteen months ago.

My final choice of house, like the decision to settle 5,00 miles from all that might seem safe and familiar, was not entirely logical.

The house is far too big for my needs and the outside grounds too small for a garden.

But life is not logical.

My home and living on the Malabar coast both give me immense happiness.

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As if to confirm the eccentricity of my purchase, the deal included an old, run-down outhouse, complete with rubbish

inside

and out.

Although my priority was to get the main house in good decorative and working order, I often wondered what should be done with the annex.

But a solution has been found.

The out-house has been painted.

My electrician summoned:

Lights and a fan installed,

Mosquito mesh fitted.

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A local artist is to use the upstairs space of the outhouse

for a studio.

A make-shift desk is created.

Sumant, my house-boy, finds himself requisitioned as a life-model.

Art is underway.

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(Please don’t wince, Lucille!)

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