Tomato wrap-up

Callie has just e-mailed me an article from the Houston Chronicle on tomato growing in Houston, so I need to get moving on the next crop. Seems like a lot of work. Certainly more work than getting into the car and driving to WholeFoods Market.

Anyway, we did enjoy one tomato from the first crop. Here’s a picture of it quartered. It was delicious. Unfortunately, the others just took too long to ripen, and by the time they were red they did not look very appetizing (note the disdainful look on Maggie’s face). And here’s a picture of how the plants look now. They all snapped under the weight and are looking very dead.

Time to start again.

Charlie's Travels – The Hugging Mother

Charlie’s journey continues:

What a week! Since I last e-mailed we have seen the town of Hampi, travelled to Kerala for 36 hours, been on a luxury cruise in the back waters of Kerala and stayed at the Ashram of Amma, the only female guru in India! Hampi was amazing. We climbed up 360 steps to a monkey temple, went rock jumping in a fresh water lake and got a blessing from an elephant. You put a coin in its trunk, it gives it to the owner and then he strokes/slobbers all over your head! We then got an overnight bus down to Bangalore, had the day in Bangalore and then got a bus in the afternoon that got into Kerala the next morning after 36 hours feeling pretty dirty and due to the intense humidity down here, very sweaty. The town we arrived in was Allaphuza, all geared to house boating on the back waters. So we didnt waste much time and managed to book a house boat for 4. It was quite expensive to what we were used to (1100 rupees each about 15 quid) for 24 hours. However we had two men punting and went for the eco-friendly quiet option, with one cook! All day as we slowly moved through the palm tree lined backwaters. We just read, played cards and relaxed on our deck chairs at the back. The food was absolutely amazing and we didn’t even finish lunch and the cook even brought out afternoon tea with banana fritters! As you can imagine leaving the boat and saying good-bye to the staff (never thought I would say that) was pretty tough. We then got on another boat, a day boat we had booked down to Kollam which is further down the coast. However we overheard some people talking about an Ashram and it was one that I had read quite a lot about in my book ‘Holy Cow’ so we decided that we would take the plunge and visit. The buildings were not as you would imagine with three tall pink sky scrapers, a temple and a sort of hanging where they did their chanting. In the evening we went to a chanting session which Amma led; it was all in Hindu and she did some pretty funny Bollywood like dancing. What was a bit worrying was how many Westerners were there absolutely fixated by Amma and when she arrived they all rushed across to get a closer glimpse. After the chanting we got our free vegetarian curry. It was like a scene out of Oliver as they slapped rice and curry on our metal plates! The next day we went to a meditation and a question and answer session with Amma where she managed to answer 2 questions in an hour and a half. Then in the afternoon we queued for a hug. Her name is also Hugging Mother and she has given over 21 million hugs! Many are apparently converted at this point. Didn’t quite go that far but it was quite an uplifting experience and Harry says she unblocked his ears! Can’t see myself rushing back to an Ashram but it was amazing to see all the different Westerners (mostly American) there, and how besotted they were with the guru! Quite relieved to get out we hopped on the boat and now we are in Kollam staying in a little hotel by the beach which is very nice. Only a week to go in India which I cannot believe! We are planing to continue going down the coast, then maybe to a nature reserve, then on Monday we will head to Chennai for our flight out. We are having a little trouble with our Visas to Vietnam as apparently we need them before we go but we were never told by STA. We may be able to get them in Singapore but it’s a bit of a worry and very irritating that they didn’t tell us before as they mentioned the India and Australia ones! Will keep you in contact as always.

Charlie's Travels – Out of Goa and on . . .

Charlie’s trip is turning into quite a geography lesson. Here’s his latest news:

Just a quick note to say we made it out of Goa! We are now in Hampi which is about nine hours east of Goa so still hot and no sea! But it is a beautiful place with scenery like something out of the Flintstones. Tomorrow we are going around the town and then bombing it down to Kerala and hopefully meet the Teddys lot again and rent a boat on the back waters which are meant to be breathtaking! The last few days in Goa were just incredible, playing cricket with the locals, eating shark at an all Goan restaurant which we actually took over and got a massive group discount! Getting a fishing boat out to butterfly island a beach only accessible by boat and pretty much deserted. We also managed to see about 15 dolphins! Yesterday we rented out bikes again and the fleet of us went up to another deserted beach which we once again took over. The waves were pretty nice but my half an hour conversation about where I could get a boat was in vain. So as you can imagine we were sad to leave especially as 3 Stowe guys came along so there were 14 of us! Anyway getting absolutely eaten alive here although I think his mozzy stuff actually kills them so I have been getting off lightly! Will keep in touch.

Charlie's Travels – Paradise

In case anyone was worried, Charlie and Co. made it to Goa (click on the flag for a map):

I cannot believe that it’s been a week since I last e-mailed. Goa has simply been incredible. The trip down was all right although I had a seriously dodgy stomach and had to sit it out for 2 hours waiting for the thing to stop! But when we got to the beach it was all made worth while. The sea is warm, I am yet to see a cloud and everything is extremely cheap. We spent two nights in Anjuna which is in north Goa and then managed to get a bamboo hut right on the beach for three nights in another place called Vagator which was amazing. We got scooters out for 4 days and just went up the coast visiting the fishing ports and other pretty much deserted beaches. Other than going on the bikes we literally found a restaurant we really liked and ate like kings (seafood is very cheap and fresh). Dont think I have ever eaten so much! When we weren’t eating we played beach cricket and swam in the sea. I can see why people can just get stuck in this place! Yesterday we moved down the coast and now we are in a place called Pallolem. Its a lot quieter and the beach is just unbelievable. Last night we just wandered down the beach and stopped to watch some football in a bar (live premiership every Saturday!), and we saw four guys who we had seen in Pushkar and cringed as they were pretty much identical to us! So all today and last night we have just been hanging out with them and three girls all from King Edwards Oxford which has been quite a good laugh. Today we swam out to an island which was a bit further than we thought and ended up in the sea for about 3 hours. Good exercise but pretty tiring! We are staying in a little beach hut again which is great. Tomorrow I think we may get a fishing boat to a deserted beach and do some fishing as apparently you can cook what you catch on the beach. We are here for another 3 nights and then we head for Hampi which is about 15 hours east, a bit out of our way but from what we hear it is definitely worth it. I can’t believe we have got just over two weeks left here! Doesn’t seem like I actually have that much news as we have literally just been chilling out all week just having a great time. Off for a big supper tonight with our new friends, all eleven of us should be quite good fun. It’s going to be a real shock when we move out but don’t worry we will move on, we have been joking about staying here till August then just flying straight home. Interesting to hear about Charles and Camilla, I think it’s great and about time too! Bad result for Pompey last night but never mind, just as long as the others keep losing! Will keep you in touch.

Pictures, Charlie. We need pictures!

Keep London Tidy – Eat a Pigeon

This article (yesterday’s Wall Street Journal — front page) on the pigeon fight in London has sent me down memory lane. I remember the highlight of passing through London on our way back to school was to go to Trafalgar Square and feed the pigeons. A photographer would take Mum’s money, give us some corn and then take our picture. Miraculously, a month later, the photograph would arrive in the mail. I couldn’t find any pictures of myself to post here (how unfortunate), but David has graciously scanned a picture of him and Ricky. Don’t they look adorable? David adds, “Ricky and me in MHS [Marlborough House School] uniform, waiting for the dreaded train from Charing Cross to Etchingham. It must be early ’60s.”

It was fun going to Trafalgar Square, but I think it would freak me out having all those pigeons on me now. David notes that the place is clean now, and that the road at the top of the picture is all pedestrianised.

Update: February 13th — David found some more pigeon pictures in the camphor chest that used to be on the landing in Coleford. This has prompted me to start a Habershon album of some of the old black and white pictures. This way! (You need to log in first. There are too many people around the world linking to our pictures.)

Phantom of the Opera

After several aborted attempts, I went to see the 2004 movie of “Phantom of the Opera” last night with Callie, her mother, and her sister. Callie has now seen it four times. She likes it a lot. But get this — her mother and her sister have seen it six times apiece. This was my first. I was already familiar with music but was not prepared for the gut wrenching love story, having never seen any of the previous movies or the stage production or read the book. I wept into my popcorn while my seasoned companions nodded sympathetically.

Many Phantom fans have complained that Michael Crawford didn’t get the lead. That was fine with me. The last time I saw Michael Crawford was back in the ’60s when he played adorable Frank on Some Mothers Do ‘ave ’em. I can’t imagine him playing anything serious, let alone singing! Gerard Butler did a great job, and the actress who played Christine, Emmy Rossum, was just beautiful — her voice was so pure and innocent. I’ve just done a Google search and found that she was only 18 years old when the movie was made.

So, yes, I loved the movie, and will definitely see it again. Callie’s mum is still spotting things she missed in the first five viewings. John‘s mum wants to see it too. We need to get back there before it leaves the theatres.

Our travellers head South

Charlie’s trip continues:
Well we have made it to Bombay! Can’t believe we have been out here for over two weeks now. Our last week in Rajastan was great although we were moving at quite a pace. Pushkar was beautiful with the whole town based around a lake so it was pretty relaxing although it has obviously been a hippy hideout since the sixties as there were a lot of western long haired bearded men roaming the streets so it was quite westernised for a small town. We then headed down to Udipur which was probably the highlight so far. It’s the setting for Octopussy and they definitely let you know about it! We went up on an Autorickshaw (small sort of three wheeler motorbike thing) up to the monsoon palace right on the top of a mountain overlooking the hills and the city and got the sunset in. The Autorickshaw was seriously struggling with four of us in it however and packed in so we had to catch a lift the rest of the way, then got a lift back with an American family which was pretty funny! In the evening we sat up on the top of a hotel and had a meal while watching Octopussy! (they show it every night!). We then moved on to Mount Abu which is the only hill station in Rajastan and according to photos and the guidebook is beautiful. What they don’t tell you is that it’s the honeymooners favorite and India’s answer to Blackpool! It did mean we got a bit of arcading in and had to decline a swan shaped pedalo in the lake but the touristy feel was a bit disappointing. However the hostel we were staying in was great and they took us on a hike and to some temples which were beautiful as we got some great views! We then decided to move on to Bombay and because we didn’t have a ticket we were told to buy a general one and update it to a sleeper on the way! Big mistake. The general is horrible. I thought standing on the train back from Sherborne was bad but when we saw it we just thought we will wait for the next one, literally people hanging from the roof and animals! So when the next train came we got on the sleeper section which was full, so we were forced to pay a fine and sleep on the metal floor for about 8 hours before some very kind man woke us to say his family were getting off and we could have his bed! So 18 hours later we got into Bombay feeling pretty groggy to be hit by the massive change in heat! Pretty tough couple of hours trying to find somewhere to stay in the heat, and Bombay is a lot more expensive but we just found somewhere and slept all day! Bombay is pretty continental, but very hot, expensive and frantic so we are heading down to Goa this afternoon. Getting an overnight coach down and we have booked a bed so that’s a big relief! The last 2 and a bit weeks have been pretty frantic so we are all pretty excited about a beach hut, some sun and a bar! Quite a long e-mail so I hope I haven’t bored you but we have done so much in the last week. Harry’s heart is a lot better and he is taking all his medication! It was quite worrying but never sure how serious it was as he does like to exaggerate! Will keep you in touch.