A journey back to Middle Earth…

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Pedalling by the Paddy Fields

Yesterday was a relaxing but fun day. We went for a bike ride through the village to see what it is like living here. Some of the people were washing clothes by soaking them in the canal water then slapping them against stone.There was also people harvesting rice by hand and others catching fish from the canals to eat for their meals. After we went for a refreshing swim in the hotel pool before a yummy biryani for lunch. A few hours after we all had an Ayurvedic massage and after, sat in a steam box for the first time. After we’d all had our massage we had dinner with dish of the day being Palak Aaap Ki Pasand (paneer and potatoes cooked with spinach puree and spices). A favourite during our stay here has also been banana lassi. We’ve also experienced several power cuts but luckily the hotel has a backup generator!




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Backwater Paradise

The relaxed pace of life that Kerala is well known for was immediately apparent as we awoke the next day. In this great location with views out onto one of the rivers and its village life, we could see very quickly that there was no benefit of rushing in the matters of day to day living. After breakfast including traditional dosa and masala chai, we went out for a walk in the local village and surroundings where we saw harvesting of of one of the rice paddies. The highlight of the day though would have to be our trip on the famous backwaters in a shikkara cruise boat. The photos tell the story of this lush green landscape and lives of the people that live here.



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Dish of the day

Our third day in India started with Papa waking us up for breakfast as we were still jet lagged. Today was our first experience of a proper Indian breakfast which included Idly and some other dishes. At around 10am we were picked up by a driver who took up to Mumbai domestic airport for our 2pm flight to Kochi. Our flight was slightly delayed due to ‘technical issues’. Our 1 and a half hour flight and 2 and a half hour journey took us over 1000 miles taking us all the way to a hotel near Alleppey in Kerela. We were greeted to the hotel by some juice and a dinner menu as it was getting late. The restaurant had and interesting way of working. You order from the menu in your room then told to go to the restaurant to eat after 45min – 1hour (apparently 2hours is between 45min and 1 hour because that’s how long our meal took to be made. Papa told me that’s called ‘Indian time’!). It was well worth the wait as the food was great. Our choice of dish of the day was Karimeen Pollichathu: pearl spot fish marinated, baked in masala with banana leaf.


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Gateway of India

Despite feeling a little jet-lagged, we made an effort to wake up reasonably early on Wednesday morning and head into the city for some first impressions of this bustling Indian metropolis.
We visited the Gateway of India, a gate structure which was erected by the side of the arabian sea to commemorate the landing of their Majesties King George and Queen Mary when they visited India in 1911. We also looked at the area nearby. In the midst of crowds of tourists, beggars and entrepreneurial locals who were trying to sell all sorts of things to passers-by – from ice creams, to photography and hastily spoken blessings which included some sweets and a wool ribbon tied around the wrist in exchange for a donation – we quickly learned to be wary of these sort of services on offer.
Later we looked at some shops and bought some very nice new clothes for the boys and myself at a wonderful Mumbai shop called Fabindia. We had a late light lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called Chetana, in the art district of Mumbai and opposite the Goethe Institute. There was an art exhibition outside and while we waited for our driver, we admired the many beautiful paintings displayed by the roadside.
By the time we had to return to our hotel to collect our luggage, we had only managed to see a small fraction of the places we had planned to see in Mumbai, but it was time to drive to Sudha’s place, a former colleague of Jayesh’s, who had kindly invited us to stay at her house. After a fascinating drive through the hustle and bustle of the city, we were warmly welcomed by Sudha in her apartment. After enjoying a cool, green drink made out of spinach, cucumber, pineapple and lemon juice, we had a wonderful home cooked meal which we all loved.



Smog Horns!!

Our plane lands in the great heat,
We collect two trolleys full of luggage,
Tired with not much sleep.

Everywhere the horns are honking
While the smog blurs the views away,
the Arabian Sea ripples while the red sun sets,
And it’s getting darker and darker today…

Some new and unpleasant smells
On the dangerous roads with no pavements,
Mumbai, we have arrived,
What surprises do you hide?



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Till we meet again…

As always its the people that make a place, and so leaving Ham, a place which we had made our home for the past 10 years, was more difficult, and I suspect we will only realise what we have left long after our lift off from Heathrow. As well as tying up a few lose ends, we were all able to see some of our friends in Ham one last time. Nilay also had the opportunity to visit his school class (now year 5) at the Russell School and share some of the highlights of our european trip.

For Milan and Nilay to leave Ham is to leave a place where they have lived practically all of their lives, and they will always remember their childhood friends and primary school days. But as I’ve said previously, we’re not looking at this as moving far away down under, but creating an opportunity for all those in the UK & Europe to visit a nice part of the world! It was great to have a final round at the Hand & Flower on Saturday evening as we remembered the good times in this great little part of the world. I also felt however that a departure wouldn’t be complete without a final burst in Richmond Park on a clear and crisp Sunday morning, which along with the River had been a rambling ground for the past 11 years. Thank you, we will miss you, and hope to see you again soon…



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Goodbye London

After our arrival back in the UK last Wednesday, our immediate focus was to find Clifford a new owner. Despite our emotional connection with the van we had to of course approach the whole thing with a rational mind. With a good level of interest after posting on e-Bay a week earlier, we were hopeful. It must have been fate as the first person to come and look at Clifford gave us a good offer and the deal was done!

Friday would be our last excursion into London where we had planned one last drink to say goodbye to the city in which Maria & I met 21 years ago and one which I seem to never tire of. We also decided to mark the day with a trip on the London Eye as Maria had never had experienced this aerial view. The drizzle cleared for a few moments and we were able to reflect on our time here and capture some last images as we also contemplated what lies ahead. In the evening it was great to meet with a few friends whom we’ve known since our Tent City days all those years ago, as well as some whom we’ve got to know since. Thanks for a great time…adieu!

Tired of London, Tired of Life!


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Farewell in Germany

Last week we were staying in my home village of Windenreute in Germany. It was good to spend some time with my family and Milan and Nilay were happy to see their grandparents, their cousins and of course Viktor, Leonardo and Elena again.
The highlight of the week was our Farewell Party on Saturday to which we had invited my entire family, all aunts, uncles, cousins, kids and also all our local friends and family friends. Guests had arrived from near and far.
As I am blessed with a wonderfully creative, musical family, we enjoyed many performances of music and poetry throughout the afternoon and evening. We thought we could see the start of an international family band emerging. Another highlight was the fantastically varied buffet dinner to which all guests had contributed a dish. There were delicious salads, quiches, chicken drumsticks, cakes – a great feast. The Windenreute Heimathaus, a little village hall served as a perfect venue.
It was sad to say good-bye for an unknown length of time, but we hope to be back every now and then and maybe some of our relatives will come and see us in New Zealand.
for some photos, please click on the link: